“This is what nightmares are made of”: Red Cross dispatches help to hurricane-devastated Florida

The National Red Cross spokesperson urges everyone to donate as she describes the damage as “like an atomic bomb went off.”
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As Hurricane Ian devastated Florida, American Red Cross national spokesperson Sherri McKinney was already stationed in Orlando ready to respond and to send help to the families who were left with nothing.

“Quite frankly we’ve heard over and over again how it looks like a warzone there, like an atomic bomb went off, that is not an exaggeration,” she told Washington News Bureau reporter Jamie Bittner as McKinney has spent the past several days touring some of the worst of the damage including in Fort Myers.

McKinney said in her 30 years experience she has never seen anything like it. The American Red Cross has deployed 80 emergency response vehicles so far and has dispatched 1,500 volunteers from across all 50 states.

“If you go down through Fort Myers, not only will you see the American Red Cross out there serving hot food from our emergency response vehicles, which we have about 80 down here, but you’ll also see first responders digging through rubble trying to find people. You will see K-9 units, digging through rubble, trying to find people. This is what nightmares are made of” she said.

Inside the more than a dozen Red Cross shelters set up in the state, families can find a bed and food as well as mental health support and medical supplies. McKinney said workers there can help replace eyeglasses, medical needs, and prescriptions. Many people also arrive with their pets.

Learn about Red Cross shelters here.

“To be very honest with you, the amount of water that came into this southwest area of Florida left very little. There’s cars, hundreds of cars, that people do not have transportation. They do not have homes. Many people are having to leave Florida just to be able to survive,” she said. “I will tell you, what people need is shelter, food and comfort. And that’s the immediate need right now. And that’s what Red Cross is offering.”

President Joe Biden will witness the devastation firsthand as he heads to the state on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, McKinney emphasizes this will be a long recovery ahead. She said the organization is requesting financial donations as it continues assisting families.

The Red Cross urges everyone across the nation to donate here or by dialing 1-800-RED-CROSS.

“Our hope is that people understand it really is as bad as what you’re seeing and then some. It is hard to convey through a photo how severe this is. You know, we met with people who are in their eighties who are on oxygen, who came to an evacuation shelter for the Red Cross just to be able to have electricity for their oxygen. We have met with people who rode the storm out, who saw, you know, 18 feet of water engulf their home and who were lucky enough to survive. That is not the case for many people,” she said.