N.C. Red Cross stays put, watching Hanna

Posted September 1, 2008 1:17 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2008 8:19 p.m. EDT

— Amid concerns for Hurricane Hanna, the local Red Cross has decided to keep people and supplies close to home.

In storms past, North Carolina volunteers were quick to respond and help with disaster relief. Concern that Hanna’s path may lead to the Carolinas, led local Red Cross officials to put supplies on lock down instead of sending relief to the Gulf Coast, which was being battered by Hurricane Gustav on Monday.

“We actually put a moratorium on sending volunteers from South Carolina and North Carolina because we were also anticipating or watching, mindfully, the storm in the Eastern Atlantic,” said Barry Porter, director of the Triangle area Red Cross.

Porter said the local Red Cross sent 29 workers from North Carolina to the Gulf Coast over the weekend. No other people or supplies will be allowed to leave unless the Carolinas are in the clear.

The Civil Air Patrol is on alert, double checking that their capabilities are ready to help with storm duties, Lt. Col David Crawford said.

Pilots could be called on missions ranging from search and rescue to post storm surveying.

“Depending on the circumstances we may fly overhead coverage of evacuation routes particularly on the Outer Banks,” Crawford said.

Gov. Mike Easley urged North Carolina residents to pay close attention to Hanna and be prepared in case the storm affects the state.

“With Hurricane Gustav hitting the Louisiana coast today, we are reminded that none of us can wait to put together emergency plans and disaster supply kits,” Easley said in a press release Monday. “Just last week we saw the damage that remnants of Tropical Storm Fay brought to our state with serious flooding, particularly in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties. It does not take a full-fledged hurricane to create dangerous situations.

“I am concerned that people will be watching Gustav and fail to pay close enough attention to Hanna.”

With the amount of help expected to pour into the Gulf Coast region to aid areas affected by Hurricane Gustav, many resources could be tied up if the Carolinas are hit.

“We’re a little concerned that some of this response may mean, for Hannah, should she arrive, that it is pretty much going to be a North Carolina staffed event and that we're going to be on our own from that regard,” Porter said.

The Red Cross estimates nationally more than 3,000 volunteers are assisting with about 500 shelters for Hurricane Gustav.

On Monday, Hanna became the fourth hurricane of the season. The storm was located Monday afternoon near Mayaguana Island in the southeastern Bahamas. It was expected to slowly move west-southwest or southwest before turning on Tuesday toward the west and northwest.

Hanna is expected to strengthen in the next 24 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.