Red Cross needs 700 volunteers for its hurricane strike team

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Southeast Texas is about to welcome its first named storm of the season, Tropical Storm Hanna, during a pandemic.

Because of the circumstances, being prepared looks very different.

The Galveston Office of Emergency Management says crews have been busy clearing drains. But, because of coronavirus, heavy trash day didn't happen.

"I can tell you in the unincorporated area, our roading bridge has been working all summer long, and really all spring, to clean out those drainage ditches. It's something that we go through every year," Zach Davidson with the Galveston OEM said. "Now, with COVID-19, we've seen a little bit of a different process on that. We usually have a yearly heavy trash day where people are able to come and bring their trash, so we weren't able to have that earlier this year."

Because many people could have big trash and tree debris in piles on their property, those items could get washed away and jam drains if flooding occurs.

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For the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters predict 14 to 20 tropical storms, seven to 11 hurricanes, and four to six major hurricanes, according to AccuWeather.

Officials in Galveston are preparing for street flooding. The Office of Emergency Management says they've been busy clearing drains.

The Red Cross is working to figure out a safe way to house people in case of an emergency. Because of social distancing standards, hundreds of people can't sleep in the same space. There must be fewer than 50 people in a large room.

"Due to COVID-19, we have an increased need right now. We're looking for approximately 700 volunteers to help support any particular kind of action that we have during hurricane season," Ekland Durousseau with the American Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region said. "And the reason we need so many volunteers is because we're increasing the number of our traditional shelter sizes."

They're looking at how they'd put people in hotels, dorms or maybe a campsite, and they're looking for more volunteers for their Hurricane Strike Team.

"Each shelter has what we call a COVID-19 kit, and it comes with things like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, things to disinfect," Durousseau said. "We also have Red Cross nurses that will be manning the Health and Safety Center, and we will check people before they come into shelters, and check our staff and our volunteers before they check in to work to make sure that they don't have a temperature."

Officials say Hanna is the perfect reminder to get stocked up. Check on your hurricane kit. Make sure you have fresh water, first-aid, whatever you need for an emergency.

"I think one thing for people to remember is, you know, this is kind of a trial run, we're starting to get into the, what we call the heart of hurricane season - August and September," said Jeff Lindner, Director of Harris County Flood Control District flood operations said. "We are expecting a fairly active hurricane season and this is that time of year where you really need to be paying attention. Folks need to be monitoring the tropics at least once a day because things can change quickly this time of year."

WATCH: How to build a hurricane preparedness kit
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Press play to find out how to build an effective severe weather kit with everything you need for the hurricane season.

A basic emergency supply kit includes the following items:
  • Water: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Pet food, leashes, crates, medications

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you'll also want to make sure you have gloves, masks, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and soap, especially if you need to go to a public shelter.

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