While northwestern Pennsylvania might be a fair distance from Hurricane Florence, which made landfall in North Carolina Friday, that hasn’t stopped several area volunteers from stepping up to help with storm relief.
According to Pam Masi, Executive Director for the American Red Cross’ Northwestern Pennsylvania district, a total of six volunteers from the area have been sent down to assist southern states prepare for the storm.
Among them is Jessie Taylor, a Meadville resident. Taylor is currently deployed to Columbia, South Carolina as a shelter associate, meaning she will be providing shelter and food to evacuees.
Masi herself, who hails from Erie, spoke to The Herald from her posting in Durham, North Carolina, where she said heavy rain and wind has already struck the area.
Masi oversees Red Cross volunteers in Erie, Crawford, Warren, Forest, Elk, Cameron, Potter and McKean counties.
However, while her division of the Red Cross usually deploys between 20 to 30 people for huge relief operations, a fear that Florence might end up hitting Pennsylvania is causing the organization to hold back some volunteers for now.
According to Pennsylvania Red Cross Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Tobin, there is a possibility that rains from Florence could reach the Pittsburgh and Central Pennsylvania area, leading to potential flooding.
As such, the Red Cross is keeping some volunteers within the keystone state, lest it also become a disaster area.
“If we’re hit hard, we want to be sure we have enough equipment and supplies here,” Tobin said.
It will take until the beginning of next week until the Red Cross knows whether Pennsylvania is “out of the woods,” according to Tobin. While it is unlikely the storm could affect Titusville or Erie areas, Tobin said that the storm has been constantly changing trajectory, making estimates difficult.
Pennsylvania as a whole has around 3,000 Red Cross volunteers, according to Tobin. Of those currently assigned to helping southern states, most are performing either sheltering work, or logistics, which involves arranging where supplies will go.
After Hurricane Florence has worn itself out, those volunteers will change over to mass care duties. This includes feeding and assisting people recover lost items.
While the hurricane only made landfall Friday, one Titusville man has already been affected by the storm.
Local Christopher Richter was vacationing in the Outer Banks earlier this week, when an evacuation order forced him to return to Pennsylvania.
Richter arrived at Hatteras Island, which is on the southern part of the Outer Banks, on Sept. 8 with his wife, mother-in-law and a few friends of the family.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, the evacuation order was announced, and everyone on the island was to leave by noon of the same day.
“You could see it by Monday that they were shuttering things up and gas stations were filling up,” Richter said. “Water was going off the shelf quick.”
Due to the huge traffic influx on roads leaving the island, it took Richter an extra hour to get off the island. He said that some areas of the road had waves washing up onto them, further slowing things down.
However, despite the oncoming storm, the weather was bright and clear on the day of the evacuation.
“It was beautiful and sunny,” Richter said. “Which makes it a little more aggravating.”
While upset that his vacation was put off for a year, the Titusville man was glad that neither he nor his family were injured as a result of the storm.
“There’s not a lot you can do about it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I guess,” Richter said.
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