Local News

Locals Rush to Help Hurricane Evacuations

Posted August 19, 2007 7:22 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2007 1:49 a.m. EDT

— While thousands evacuate before hurricanes, volunteers from across North Carolina are headed straight to Texas, where forecasters say Hurricane Dean may make landfall.

Local military and civilian emergency-response teams will be on the front lines, if Dean does hit the Texas coast.

More than 50 members of the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flew out of Pope Air Force Base to Brownsville, Texas, in two waves on Sunday.

The personnel, mostly medical workers and evacuation specialists, will help evacuate people from the Brownsville airport.

Two local Red Cross volunteers left the Triangle to report to a staging area in Little Rock, Ark., where their disaster relief will get a specific assignment.

Volunteers Jeff Thompson and Anne Soeder took an Emergency Response Vehicle, which is designed to provide food and supplies in disaster-affected areas.

"Depending on where the storm hits, we'll probably be one of the first people in there with water and food," volunteer Anne Soeder said.

The 43rd AES airmen will also be among the first to arrive and are responsible for setting up a mobile staging facility at the airport and organizing supplies for other evacuation workers, said Capt. Beverly Mock of Pope Air Force Base.

When evacuations begin, the airmen will split into teams with different specialties. One team will help care for sick and vulnerable evacuees at the airport, while two teams will go to hospitals and nursing homes to help evacuate patients. Two other crews will fly with patients to provide in-flight care.

During Hurricane Katrina, the 43rd AES evacuated more than 2,500 people from Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans over three days.

The unit also deployed in support of Iraq operations.

A total of eight Red Cross teams from North Carolina are deploying to Texas, including teams from Durham, Winston-Salem and Asheville.

Thompson explained why he and others volunteer to face the dangers of hurricanes.

"I love helping other people. I'm not really scared of anything," Thompson said. "I love volunteering and helping other people."