NORTH CAROLINA -- As Florence, a potentially catastrophic hurricane, heads for the United States, packing strong wind and heavy rain, those on the East Coast are on high alert. Meanwhile, Red Cross volunteers from Wisconsin are preparing to head out to help.
Florence picked up steam in the Atlantic Monday, Sept. 10, strengthening into a Category 4 storm, heading toward North Carolina. Evacuations were ordered on the Outer Banks barrier islands, and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia declared state of emergencies.
"North Carolina is taking Hurricane Florence seriously and you should too. Get ready now," said North Carolina Governor Roy Hooper.
Florence is expected to bring power outages, storm surge and flooding, packing winds of more than 130 miles-per-hour when it makes landfall Thursday, Sept. 13.
As of Monday, 16 volunteers were headed to the Carolinas with the American Red Cross from Wisconsin, along with two emergency vehicles -- numbers that could grow.
"There are three vehicles in Wisconsin that are on alert. That means they're ready to go. That's how we start the process, is to start taking stock of who we have and then we look at our supplies and vehicles. We're anticipating a lot of people are going to have to get out of the path of the storm, so we have shelters that are already opening. We're sending people from Wisconsin who said 'yes, we'll go to a shelter somewhere in North Carolina' and position yourself. We don't want to risk one life in this hurricane," said Patty Flowers, American Red Cross Wisconsin CEO.
Officials have warned of this storm's danger, and images from space show its strength.
"When weather forecasters tell us life-threatening, we know that it is serious," said Flowers.
Red Cross volunteers will be prepared to distribute comfort kits for families in need, or a stuff animal for the kids.
"Sometimes it's just that hug -- that warm person that's standing there saying, 'you know what? Tomorrow will be a little better for you.' That's what the Red Cross does," said Flowers.
Officials at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield were monitoring the situation Monday, evaluating whether to send volunteers.
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