As Hurricane Harvey dumps foot after foot of water on the Houston area, the American Red Cross has tried to funnel in volunteers from across the nation — among them two Idahoans.
The problem? Emergency responders can’t even get to Houston through the flooding, said volunteer Diana Ochsner.
“Our deployment has been hush-hush simply because they were unable to figure out how to get us where we need to be,” said Ochsner, who is the Disaster Action Team coordinator for South-Central Idaho.
So instead, Ochsner, of Jerome, and Don Nesbitt, of Mountain Home, are headed to Austin, where all Red Cross teams from west of the Mississippi River will converge until it’s safe to move east to the towns hit hardest by the storm. There, they’ll drive their ambulance-like Emergency Response Vehicles through the “mucky-muck” — delivering food, water, emergency supplies and medical treatment to Texans whose homes were decimated by strong winds and stronger rain.
Earlier this year, Ochsner got her feet wet — literally — in floods across Louisiana and North Carolina. The damage of Hurricane Harvey has already surpassed those storms, she said.
“This is going to go down in history,” the 59-year-old added.
Still, Ochsner said she and Nesbitt are honored to be headed into the storm. Most volunteers with the Idaho and Montana region of the Red Cross are under a moratorium for national travel in order to prioritize their help on the Lolo Peak Fire in Montana, Ochsner explained. Ochsner and Nesbitt are waiting for Idaho Red Cross officials to give them the OK before heading to Texas.
“I’m really proud to be able to represent Idaho in this situation,” Ochsner said.
She said she’s anxious to get to folks in need, no matter how hectic things may be there.
“That’s the spirit of a Red Cross volunteer: When people are rushing out of a disaster, we’re rushing in,” Ochsner said.
How you can help
In lieu of food or other items, Red Cross volunteer Diana Ochsner said the organization benefits most from financial donations. The Red Cross has set up a specific donation campaign for those affected by Hurricane Harvey on its website.