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Red Cross, Michigan Task Force One heads to Louisiana to help with disaster relief

Posted at 7:19 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 21:07:05-04

KENTWOOD, Mich. — Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana Sunday midday, leaving millions of people without power, and damaging homes and businesses throughout the state. With winds topping 150 mph winds, it's been called one of the worst storms to hit the area in over a century.

“This is the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. So, it’s really hitting home for people down there and for our volunteers,” said Breeze Ettl during an interview with FOX 17 on Monday. “Many of our volunteers started volunteering with the Red Cross because of Hurricane Katrina.”

Sixteen years ago, over 1,800 people died in Hurricane Katrina which hit the same area. This time only one person has died.

The Red Cross said they’re there to help no matter what the outcome is.

“The Red Cross does mass care, which means we open shelters and we provide food,” said Ettl, the executive director of the West Michigan branch. “Even before the hurricane started, we were deploying volunteers down to that area.”

So far, they’ve sent down 34 trained volunteers who are already working alongside hundreds of other volunteers from branches across the country.

Ettl said their help tends to go to the people who could not evacuate.

“The people that we help the most are the most vulnerable. So, these are people who may not have the means to just leave and find a hotel. They may not have friends and family that live far away where they can travel to get there,” Ettl said. “So, these folks who are staying in shelters, on a cot, with the Red Cross blanket are probably our most vulnerable population.”

Ettl said they’ve got more volunteers they’re training who will be heading from Michigan to Louisiana soon. They’ll be working alongside other national organizations and groups, possibly one from the state.

“We have four boats that are on the way. We also have rescue specialists that can be collapsed, [and] confined-spaced ropes,” said Dave McIntyre, program manager for Michigan Task Force One. “We have a hazmat specialist that can not only monitor the environment, not only the air but also the water. We have a medical team. We have a doctor responding with paramedics.”

The Task Force also brought PPE, K9s, a structural engineer, and a heavy equipment operator. McIntyre said they’re sending down 43 personnel from 24 fire departments from across the state.

“Right now we’re just in the response mode: life safety, property conservation, just making sure that everybody is safe,” McIntyre said during a Zoom interview on Monday afternoon. “That’s the first thing and then you get into the recovery mode. And, how much damage do I have? How much water damage do we have? And just kind of get an assessment of what is the damage done there.”

The Red Cross said the recovery will take weeks and months. So, they and others will be down there for some time.

“We will have volunteers there for many weeks to come,” Ettl said. “Our volunteers volunteer for 2-3 weeks at a time and then we replace them with a new volunteer that’s fresh and ready to volunteer for another 2-3 weeks. So, yes it’s going to take weeks or months for this to recover.”

***The Red Cross said they’re in need of funding. So if you’d like to make a donation click here.***