EVERETT — Local American Red Cross relief efforts began before Tropical Storm Harvey slammed into Texas late last week, with one Snohomish County volunteer landing in the Lone Star state.
The local response likely will be a marathon rather than a sprint.
“We expect shelters to be open well into the fall or winter, perhaps Thanksgiving-ish,” said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the Snohomish County chapter of the American Red Cross. Morrison has been receiving briefings from the national organization. Torrential rains are drenching parts of Louisiana and Texas, leaving widespread flooding. More than 2,000 people have been rescued.
Morrison anticipates the local chapter deploying volunteers in the weeks and months ahead as others finish their stints.
“I suspect there will be multiple waves of volunteers,” he said.
He expects many will work in shelters and getting food out into communities. At one point, 62 Texas counties were under a disaster declaration since Harvey hit.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday estimated 30,000 people will need emergency shelter and that 450,000 will seek federal aid during the recovery, which could take years. The hurricane-turned-tropical storm could dump up to 50 inches of rain in some parts of Texas by the time it departs later this week. The Associated Press on Monday reported three confirmed deaths, but the death toll was expected to rise.
There were roughly 6,000 people in more than 40 Red Cross shelters Sunday night. The Red Cross has shelter supplies — cots, blankets, toiletries and food — for 34,000, with supplies for 18,000 more coming, Morrison said. Accurate forecasts from the National Weather Service were critical in getting supplies to key locations early.
For now, the local chapter does not need bulk supplies, such as blankets and clothes, to help in Texas, Morrison said. Money would be more helpful. Donations to the Red Cross can be made online at www.redcross.org. Up to $10 also can be sent by text to help with Harvey at 90999. Calls may be made to 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Twelve members of the Northwest Region of the American Red Cross, which includes Washington state, were sent to Texas before the storm. Other relief workers left Sunday. One of those volunteers, a retired Everett police officer, is from the Snohomish County chapter and was expected to help with logistics in Houston, Morrison said.
He’d been unable to reach the volunteer, which was of little surprise because cell reception and internet access was reported to be spotty.
Coast Guard personnel from Washington, including Sector Puget Sound, also have been deployed to help with rescue efforts, the Coast Guard reported Monday.
People who want to volunteer through the Red Cross should register online at www.redcross.org. Training is required and some classes can be taken online, including Disaster Services Overview, Psychological First Aid and Intro to Shelter Operations. Defensive Driving must be taken in-house, with a class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“People should be patient with the website,” Morrison said. “It’s overwhelmed.”
The local Red Cross director said the devastation brought by Harvey is an important reminder to take cautionary steps closer to home.
“We ought to think about our own preparedness plan for our homes and neighborhoods,” he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.