GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Rain batters east Texas this morning with a ferocious punch that few communities have ever experienced.
Somewhere in that unmerciful deluge are four volunteers who represent the Gulfport chapter of the American Red Cross. And they'll be joined very soon by a second deployment of South Mississippians whose sole purpose is to provide instant aid to storm stricken Texans.
Red Cross administrators realize surviving Hurricane Harvey will require the assistance of multiple teams from multiple states. That's why Gulfport Red Cross volunteers headed west as soon as Harvey's forecast became ominous.
The local Red Cross director is John McFarland. In a text with WLOX News, McFarland said his agency would provide whatever Texas and Louisiana might need. "This will definitely be a big and a long relief effort so we plan to be at it for weeks – maybe months," said McFarland.
Harvey slammed into Texas Friday night as a category four hurricane. Its winds topped 130 mph, making it the most powerful storm to crash into the continental U.S. in a decade.
WLOX First Alert forecasters expect Harvey to sit over the lone star state for several days, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain on Texas towns from San Antonio to Galveston. One model indicates anywhere from 30-50 inches of rain could pummel Texas before the system moves out of the state.
The devastation expected to be seen across the eastern half of Texas is what McFarland's volunteers will help clean up. "We are doing some training at the Gulfport and Hattiesburg offices tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-3 for volunteers wanting to help and will do more probably Tuesday," the Red Cross director said. "Will know more tomorrow on what's needed in Texas and Louisiana."
If you'd like to volunteer with the American Red Cross, call 228-896-4511.