Local Volunteers Head to East Coast, Braving Hurricane

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Volunteers from the American Red Cross of Arkansas left for the East Coast on Sunday to help deal with the expected damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"We are headed to Middletown, NY in relief operation for Sandy," said Mike Kratchmer, a volunteer with NWA Red Cross.

A dozen volunteers with support vehicles from Northwest Arkansas will join other teams from Arkansas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and New York.

"When they get there they will be providing mobile feeding, fixed feeding in neighborhoods and then after the storm hits, after the flooding, they`ll be providing cleanup kits and bulk distribution for tarps, brooms, and other cleanup materials," said Jeff Patrick, NWA Red Cross communications director. 

Each Emergency Response Vehicle is equipped with everything the volunteers will need over the next several weeks including food, water, tarps and other cleanup materials.

“We have got all of the stuff that we need to serve people food in the field in these cabinets here,” Kratchmer said. “We have a heating and air conditioning unit, safety equipment, the extra seat for a person to sit in transit or to serve food out the window.”

The hurricane is expected to bring torrential rains and high winds to a wide swath of land from Virginia to Connecticut.

“We are mobilizing volunteers and disaster vehicles to help,” said Jeff Patrick, the director of communications for the Northwest Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross. “The volunteers' experience include responses to residential fires, floods and storms across Arkansas. Our volunteers will provide a variety of skills from managing mass feeding, community partnerships and providing mobile feeding with two of our emergency trucks heading east at this time."

Patrick said more volunteers will leave during the coming week.

"It means an awful lot to me because I have close neighbors who have been helped by Red Cross and I haven`t gotten to see what they do so it means a lot to me to be able to do that," Kratchmer said. 

The hurricane has already caused more than 40 deaths in the Caribbean and is expected to make landfall Monday somewhere along the East Coast. Multiple states have already declared a state of emergencies.

The volunteers left Tontitown at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Patrick expects it will take 8-10 hours for the volunteers to get there and then they will stay on scene for at least 2-3 weeks or until they are finished providing services.