Knoxville American Red Cross responds to Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael blew into the Florida Panhandle with strong winds and heavy rain Oct. 10, impacting major cities like Tallahassee, Panama City and Pensacola.

According to the Weather Channel, “a Category 4 or stronger hurricane has never made landfall in the Florida Panhandle.”

The Knoxville chapter of the American Red Cross currently has 27 volunteers working in Florida.

“We have over 500 Red Cross staff and volunteers already on the ground either in Alabama, Georgia or the Tallahassee, Florida, area,” Regional Philanthropy Officer Lori Marsh said.

The Red Cross planned to provide emergency evacuation centers for the first 12-24 hours of the hurricane. If people cannot return home after this period, the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and each state’s emergency management association coordinate shelters.

“What they are very concerned with [Hurricane] Michael is the wind damage,” Marsh said. ” That means trees down and power lines out.”

Power outages could last for weeks depending upon the severity of the damage.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale considers Category 4 hurricanes to have 130-156 mph winds and are expected to cause catastrophic damage. Hurricane Michael reached a peak speed of 155 mph, only 2 mph below Category 5. Only three Category 5 storms have hit the United States since recording began: the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“This disaster could be very unique because Floridians don’t typically like to leave,” Marsh said. “So while there were evacuation notices, many did not [evacuate].”

Marsh said many chose not to evacuate during Hurricane Florence last month, and the Red Cross exhausted most efforts rescuing. The Red Cross remains concerned about similar cases in Florida.

For those wondering how to help individuals and families affected by Hurricane Michael, Marsh said the biggest need remains monetary.

“While so many people would like to volunteer…you can’t get up and go,” Marsh said. “The reality is, your dollar can absolutely immediately do something to support the work we have going on.”

The American Red Cross accepts relief donations on its official site.

Written by Ainsley Kelso and guest writer McCall Current

Featured Photo by Ainsley Kelso

Edited by Lexie Little