Local volunteers help people affected by hurricane

Published On: Oct 29 2012 01:47:17 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 29 2012 07:39:43 PM CDT

Most people would want to stay far away from a major storm like Hurricane Sandy.

But a handful of volunteers from the La Crosse area headed to the East Coast over the weekend to help people affected by the storm.

It's a good thing those volunteers from the Scenic Bluffs Chapter of the American Red Cross left when they did. Hurricane Sandy has forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights to the East Coast.

"Right now we're at a standstill," said the chapter’s regional development director, Carol Abrahamzon.

One volunteer from Coon Valley is in Maryland right now. One volunteer and one staff member deployed to New York. All three of them are working in shelters.

“We need people who can help out in those shelters, because they are going to be taking care of thousands of people every day for a long time yet. It will be quite some time before folks will be able to get back into their homes. We don't know how long the power will be out, and that's always a big one, especially this time of the year," said Abrahamzon.

Western Wisconsin Red Cross chapters also deployed four emergency response vehicles.

“Those are all equipped with supplies that they'll need in those shelters and food that they'll need to help the people who are dislocated right now," said Abrahamzon.

Once planes to the East Coast can safely take off, the Red Cross can deploy more help to the region.

"There's the potential to send hundreds of people out of the Western Wisconsin area. And the faster we can get those folks out there and help people out, the better," said Abrahamzon.

But while those flights are still grounded, one way people can still help is by donating blood. The storm has already caused about 100 Red Cross blood drives to be canceled.

"That's an area of grave concern that we have right now. We're asking anybody who can give blood to go to their local blood donation center and please do that if you are able," said Abrahamzon.

Anyone interested in giving blood can find the nearest location to donate at: www.redcrossblood.org.

For more information on volunteering, go to www.redcross.org/wi/la-crosse or call 608-232-7462.

Gov. Scott Walker said Wisconsin's National Guard stands ready to assist if needed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has identified Wisconsin guard members to provide support.

It wouldn't be the first time. The Wisconsin guard was called in to help after Hurricane Katrina.