Friday morning, trained disaster workers Betsy LeClair and Joel O’Connell from Two Rivers left from Austin Straubel Airport in Brown County to head to Tampa. They were checked in before the sun rose.
“My partner and I are flying to Tampa to prepare for the impending Hurricane that may or may not hit Florida,” O’Connell said.
They’re among 600 Red Cross volunteers across the country who have taken emergency response training classes to prepare to provide disaster relief.
“When Katrina hit, it was an eye opener for everybody,” said O’Connell. “It’s better to be well-prepared and not have to use your facilities than it is to try and scrape things together at the height of the storms.”
O’Connell and LeClair believe in Tampa they’ll be working to provide shelter and food to people evacuated from their homes.
“We’re quite a ways from the eye of the storm. We’ll be in an outlying area, because the people who are in danger will have been moved to the shelters,” O’Connell said.
Strangers helping strangers during disasters is what the Red Cross is all about, says volunteer director Jody Weyers.
“Volunteers for the American Red Cross are the heart of the organization. We are a volunteer-led organization. Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to provide the programs or services that we do in the community,” Weyers said.
Two other volunteers from Fond du Lac also headed down to Florida to provide relief during the storm.
The Red Cross says it has 22 emergency response vehicles already in Florida and 28 more are headed to the state in preparation for the storm. They have dozens more on stand-by.
Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti Friday. It’s expected to hit Cuba by the weekend and become a hurricane by Monday as it makes landfall.