More Central Oklahoma American Red Cross volunteers to help with Harvey rescues

August 26, 2017. Victoria , Texas.Damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.Photo by Daniel Cima for The American Red Cross

More Oklahomans have been shipped down to the Houston area, helping first responders with water rescues, food and shelter. Volunteer crews that are on standby in the metro area, could soon be headed down south.

Heavy rain is overburdening resources as first responders in and around Houston rush to save those trapped by the high waters. So now...more Oklahomans through American Red Cross are stepping up to the plate to help authorities.

“The need is just there. We respond to anything within our American Red Cross band. We're one of the closest regions to the Texas area,” said American Red Cross Oklahoma and Arkansas Regional Philanthropy Officer, Blake Bonfiglio.

So since they're one of the closest, they initially deployed 18 volunteers Friday. Sunday, they've increased that number to 35, saying 7 emergency responders are down in Houston.

“They're saturated with their people, their staff. Their volunteers are at capacity. So we need to send additional reinforcements for them,” Bonfiglio said. “And we've got several other different people here in our region that are on standby, waiting for the call to go down there as well.”

Other governmental organizations, such as the Oklahoma National Guard, are in contact with authorities in Texas, but have not been called out to help.

OG&E will head out Monday, assisting with any restoration efforts in the Corpus Christi area.

As those crews at home patiently wait for that call, American Red Cross officials say the volunteers, that are in the Houston area, have already helped with water rescues.

“Some of them are right in the middle of doing damage assessments. Some of them are doing rescue operations. A lot of them are doing sheltering,” said Bonfiglio.

These volunteers are expected to stay in heart of the storm for a minimum of two weeks, possibly a month for some, helping 20,000 to 25,000 people in their shelters.

“Resource wise, we continue to depend on the American public and the different partners that we have that financially donate and support us.”

And as far as volunteers, officials said they're doing "Just in Time" trainings this week. This will better prepare volunteers for what it would look like to respond to catastrophic storms, such as Hurricane Harvey.

“There's a lot of water down there to deal with and we've actually been having some issues getting all of the people, that we have sent down there, to the sheltering areas,” Bonfiglio said.

American Red cross officials said safety is the number one priority when helping out with these water rescues. So far, no one was hurt during the efforts to get everyone out safely.

We reached out to other governmental organizations, such as USO Oklahoma to see if they've been called out to help. At this time, we have not heard back from them. But we do know the Salvation Army left Sunday morning and the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief will also leave for Texas.

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