Seven Oklahomans are on their way to the Gulf Coast with the American Red Cross as Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.
Forecasters said the storm, expected to reach hurricane status before it makes landfall Wednesday, could affect coastal residents from the Florida panhandle to southeastern Louisiana. Ken Garcia, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma, said the volunteers from Oklahoma are either already in the area or left for the Gulf Coast on Monday.
The volunteers will be spread across the region, with three headed to Montgomery, Ala., one to Baton Rouge, La., and one already in Florida. Two more volunteers driving an emergency response vehicle, or ERV, will head for a staging area in Mississippi, Garcia said.
“They will be working with the local Red Cross there with issues like potential sheltering, getting people food and clothing, the relief efforts that will be there,” Garcia said. “The ERV provides help for first responders and residents in areas that are hit. We make sure they have water, coffee in the mornings. We can serve hot meals out of those vehicles.”
The storm is expected to make landfall seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the Louisiana and Mississippi state lines. Isaac was on a similar path Monday. Isaac is not expected to be as strong as Katrina, which was a category 3 hurricane and killed 1,800 people.
According to the National Weather Service, Isaac is expected to be a category 1 hurricane with winds of up to 85 mph. It is projected to make landfall near New Orleans.
Flooding is a serious concern given the devastation caused by Katrina, and Garcia said volunteers will be prepared for anything. They could be in the area for a couple of days or as long as several weeks, he said.
Three of the volunteers are from Oklahoma City. Two are from Enid, with one each from Woodward and Shawnee. Garcia said they are in good spirits and looking forward to helping.
“You can sit at home and watch on TV,” Garcia said. “We encourage donations, but it's nice to get out and have an impact on those affected by these storms and they give you a hug and tell you how much they appreciate it.”