Though local first responders who traveled to Texas and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are returning home, national agencies are preparing to stick it out for the long haul in the storm-ravaged states, where relief efforts are expected to continue for months and rebuilding is anticipated to take years.
As of Monday evening, more than 32,000 people had sought refuge in 192 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas with more expected in upcoming days. On Sunday night alone, more than 1,000 people in Louisiana sought shelter in emergency housing, according to data from the Red Cross.
In total, the Georgia Red Cross has deployed 84 volunteers and staff to assist with Harvey relief, and seven state fleet vehicles are currently being used for mass feeding.
Their work is not finished, though, as state agencies, in partnership with national agencies, prepare for the effects of Hurricane Irma, which is expected to make landfall in Florida Sunday morning, should it continue on its current path.
In southeast Georgia, too, residents, emergency agencies and government officials are gearing up for Irma, with Forsyth and other northeast Georgia Red Cross workers already deployed to Savannah and other coastal areas that may see damage.
“We are partners in whatever is coming,” said Mike Riemann, disaster program manager for Forsyth’s Red Cross office. “We have quite a few people from the 23-county [northeast] chapter who are deployed in Macon and prepared to help [with Irma].
“We are also coordinating our plans with the Forsyth County Emergency Management Agency and are working closely with the county in case we need to provide emergency shelter to [southeast Georgia] residents.”
Riemann stressed the county has no shelters currently open, nor has anyone made any decision to open one, but the Red Cross is working with Forsyth EMA “just in case.”
Ryan Anderson, who owns Yes Pet Friendly Carpet Cleaning and works for Central EMS ambulance company that serves Forsyth, said local paramedics who traveled to Texas returned home Tuesday but that they don’t expect to rest any time soon.
“We are currently preparing for Hurricane Irma,” he said. “[We’ll go to Florida] if FEMA gets involved, and [though] Florida usually doesn’t use FEMA, in this situation they might.”
They could also travel to southeast Georgia, where FEMA, along with the Red Cross, are already mobilizing resources.
Riemann said that’s where the focus is now.
“We had people from our chapter deployed to Louisiana and Texas,” he said, “but we also have to take care of folks at home, and that’s what we’re planning to do.”