ROBERTSDALE – Baldwin County residents are preparing to help their neighbors to the west, but officials warn that people should wait to go to areas hit by Hurricane Ida until aide is …
ROBERTSDALE – Baldwin County residents are preparing to help their neighbors to the west, but officials warn that people should wait to go to areas hit by Hurricane Ida until aide is requested.
Hurricane Ida came ashore near Port Fouchon, La. on Sunday. Jenni Guerry, deputy director of the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, said that while Baldwin escaped the worst damage, winds, flooding and storm surge from the Category 4 storm affected many areas of Louisiana as the hurricane moved north.
“We have been very fortunate that Hurricane Ida has caused minimal impacts to Baldwin County, however, we have neighbors that are just to the west, that have catastrophic damage,” Guerry said.
Guerry said that while many Gulf Coast residents want to help, they should wait until rescue efforts are completed and officials ask for help.
“At this time, they are actively clearing roadways,” she said. “They are actively doing search and rescue missions. Life safety is their first priority right now, and they need to get an assessment on their community, and as they begin to make that assessment and make sure that they have their people taken care of, then they'll be able to support receiving these donations, and these goods.”
Above all, residents should not set out on their own for the damaged areas to bring donations or offer other assistance, she said.
“The roads are still unsafe, and they are asking that volunteers do not, I repeat, do not self-deploy at this time,” Guerry said. “So, let our first responders in that area continue to do the life safety issues and concerns and let them handle that right now.”
Some assistance has been requested and is being sent. Grant Brown, public information officer for Gulf Shores, said first responders and others from that city are going to Hammond, La. to help with recovery efforts.
“They leave tomorrow morning, Wednesday morning and will be gone anywhere from five to seven to 10 days,” Brown said Tuesday. “They’re making sure that they’re completely self-sufficient so that they don’t become a burden on others. They’ve got connections over to law enforcement over in Hammond, so they’ve got a task waiting for them when they get there already. So, they’re heading over.”
Brown also said agencies and residents should wait before setting out on their own.
“Louisiana’s telling people don’t self-deploy,” Brown said. “Make sure you go through organizations, because one thing we noticed in Sally is when people who have really good intentions just show up to help when there’s not a coordinated effort, they actually become a little bit of an issue and it’s actually better initially to don’t go. Wait for the call for volunteers to actually show up to help.”
Dana Jepsen, chair of Baldwin County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, said local agencies are preparing to help as soon as assistance is requested.
“We are working on that right now. We are trying to gather all of the groups who are planning to take items over and are collecting right now,” Jepsen said.
Jepsen said storage space in the affected areas is also limited. Relief agencies do not have places to put donated items.
“We have been in communication with a lot of organizations in Louisiana,” Jepsen said. We're trying to figure out how to provide donations, and the word that we're receiving is that warehouse space is extremely limited. So even if we were able to supply a huge load of donations, they wouldn't have a place to put it. So, we are asking that right now. Please do not donate items to this area. As soon as we have a good mechanism for that and good logistics in place, we will certainly let you know. We know folks are generous, but we also don't want to be overwhelming to our neighbors.”
Deann Servos, director of Prodisee Pantry, said one way that people can help is to donate money to agencies that they know and trust. Money will allow agencies to buy the items needed in bulk without having to pack, ship and store donated material.
Gift cards are also a way to help people and areas affected by the storm, she said.
“The other option is very simple, go purchase some gift cards, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Target, large chain box stores that will open quickly, so that those communities will take those dollars and send them in their stores. That gets folks back to work,” Servos said. “So that's a great way to help people recovery. So, you could donate cash from reputable organizations or donate gift cards.”
Jepsen said information on relief efforts will be available on the Facebook page for Baldwin County VOAD and Baldwin County EMA.