CLEVELAND — First responders and other volunteers are among those from Northeast Ohio heading toward the disaster zone in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The American Red Cross Greater Cleveland Chapter said it currently has 15 volunteers in Texas or on their way to the area, along with three emergency response vehicles.
Volunteers are having trouble getting to the affected zone and are staging in Austin or Baton Rouge until they are able to get closer, according to Jim McIntyre, a spokesman for the chapter.
Additional volunteers are expected to continue to deploy in the coming days, and they will be staying in the hurricane zone for two to three weeks.
A Mentor company is also dispatching a fleet of five drones and operators. They’re typically used to map construction projects, but Aerial Visual Technologies will use the drones to aid in searches and for insurance claim adjustments. Some of the drones are equipped with thermal imagining cameras.
“I spent 8 years in the Coast Guard, so I know what it’s like when disasters strike: Chaos. We can bring some organization and a helping hand to that chaos,” owner Robert Nicholson said.
“We can use the drones to pretty much take care of everything that humans can do, so we don’t need to put them at risk.”
The U.S. Coast Guard said it has sent 47 people from the Great Lakes to the flood zone, including 10 that are based in Cleveland. An airboat from Marblehead was also sent to assist in rescues.
Ohio Task Force 1, a Dayton-based group of first responders, has been on the ground in Texas since Friday and has been working in Houston’s suburbs. Firefighters from departments in Euclid, Green, New Franklin and Ravenna are part of the group.
Lorain Ward 6 Councilman Angel Arroyo said he is also organizing a drive to collect relief items, stuffing a truck that he will drive to the flood zone. Arroyo has done the same during past disasters, including Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.
He said he’s collecting bottled water, toiletries, cleaning supplies and non-perishable food items at the Lorain Port Authority through the weekend, including during Rockin’ on the River. He said he plans to travel to the flood zone early next week.
“I know I expect to see devastation, and my goal with seeing that is to be able to bring a little bit of relief,” Arroyo said.