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Already in Texas, WI Salvation Army volunteers on standby after Irma: “We’re just learning what’s taken place”

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FLORIDA -- The Salvation Army is helping hurricane victims in Texas and Florida after Harvey and Irma, and you can as well.

Irma made landfall Sunday, September 10th on Cudjo Key, and FEMA said Tuesday 25% of the homes on the chain of islands in the Florida Keys were destroyed by Irma. Another 65% suffered major damage -- and that's certainly not the only area impacted.

Before slamming into the United States, Irma hit Cuba late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane. Irma killed 36 people in the Caribbean before heading to the United States.

In the U.S., Irma, which stretched 650 miles from east to west, pummeled at least nine states -- deluging city streets, uprooting trees and destroying homes along the way.

At least eight storm-related deaths were reported as of Tuesday afternoon, according to local officials:

Florida had three deaths. A 51-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line in Winter Park. A driver died in a crash on State Road 417. And another person died in Miami-Dade County from carbon monoxide poisoning after using a generator indoors. Georgia had three deaths. A 62-year-old man who was on his roof was killed in Worth County, which experienced wind gusts of 69 mph. Another man was killed in Sandy Springs when a tree fell on his house. And a woman was killed when a tree struck her vehicle in Cumming. South Carolina had two deaths. A 57-year-old man was struck by a falling tree limb during the storm. State emergency officials said a driver with a Florida license plate also died from the storm, but did not give further details.

Officials urged patience as people began returning to their homes Tuesday.

"The aftermath of Irma -- we're just learning what's taken place," Steve Merritt, Salvation Army major said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Salvation Army volunteers were still helping Harvey victims in Texas -- on standby after Irma.

Steve Merritt, Salvation Army major

"We just recently sent a feeding unit from Waukesha," Merritt said.

Major Merritt said they've also sent spiritual counselors to help Harvey victims. He said his army makes the biggest impact providing food and shelter to victims.

"We're not hit locally, but we certainly come alongside those who are suffering," Merritt said.

With Irma affecting homes in Florida and Georgia, Merritt said people in the Badger State are stepping up again.

"Not surprised by the the generosity. They are coming in here at our Wauwatosa office right here on Watertown Plank Road," Merritt said.

The Salvation Army guarantees 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to those in need.

"With the funding that comes, the Salvation Army is able to make purchases for the food, for water, for blankets, for cots," Merritt said.

While there were Wisconsin volunteers in Texas Tuesday, Merritt said his volunteers will be ready if and when they're called upon to head to Florida.

"Individuals serving right now in Florida are those that live there. So Wisconsin, Upper Michigan Division, we stand ready," Merritt said.

We Energies crews will deploy to Florida from Racine Wednesday morning. There, they'll assist with power restoration efforts. We Energies officials said more than 30 workers will leave from the Racine Service Center. They'll be on hand in Florida in addition to the 100 contract employees previously released for restoration efforts.

In an effort to help those affected by Irma, FOX6 is teaming up with the Salvation Army and local iHeart Media radio stations for a Disaster Relief Phone Bank. It begins at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, September 13th and will run until 10:30 p.m. Volunteers will be on hand at FOX6 to take your pledges. The funds will benefit Irma victims.