LIHUE — Kauai is sending two American Red Cross volunteers to lend a hand on the Mainland as Hurricane Irma moves toward Florida.
“There’s a huge, huge effort to try to get people there before the storm hits,” said Padraic Gallagher, director of disaster services for Kauai for the American Red Cross.
Gallagher left Thursday night, bound for the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C. There, he will work as a liaison between the Red Cross and local governments and nonprofits.
“That’s our staging area, and I’ll probably head south from there. That’s dependent on where the storm goes,” Gallagher said.
Anna Myers, Red Cross volunteer from Princeville, left for Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, where she’ll be reporting for duty in a shelter.
“She’ll be doing the same type of thing,” Gallagher said.
Myers was in transit on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Gallagher has been part of relief efforts worldwide, including Super Typhoon Dolphin in Guam and the typhoon in Saipan — both in 2015 — and the 2008 Hurricane Ike in Texas.
He said he’s never responded to a storm as big as the incoming Hurricane Irma, which was ripping through the Caribbean Thursday afternoon and is predicted to reach Florida on Sunday morning.
“I was just watching the Weather Channel and they said right now it’s the longest sustained Category 5 storm ever,” Gallagher said.
The last record-holder was Hurricane Allen, which hit Texas and Mexico in 1980. That storm sustained winds of 180 mph for about 18 hours.
Gallagher said there’s still a chance for Kauai volunteers to jump on board.
“It’ll be a little tough at this point to get ahead of the storm, but more than likely we’ll need people through the end of the year,” he said. “The recovery won’t end as the storm passes. After that, it’s about the aftermath.”
If you start with the Red Cross now, you could be trained, background-checked and ready to deploy by October.
“You don’t necessarily have to have experience, just need to be trained and be a full-fledged Red Cross volunteer,” Gallagher said.
But, even those who aren’t volunteering with the Red Cross can get involved with relief efforts. On the ground, ham radio operators and people who volunteer with Community Emergency Response Team programs are needed.
“They help out with logistics, moving supplies and security,” Gallagher said.
People can also help by donating money or supplies.