From a hotel in Clear Lake, Texas, Jana Sweeny described the damage from Hurricane Ike.
"The lobby roof has caved in. Many of the doors were blown off. There's shattered glass everywhere," she said.
In an audio posting on an American Red Cross blog, the Salt Lake City-based Red Cross staffer described what was happening around her. Many evacuated to her hotel, Sweeny said, thinking they could ride out the storm.
"This is a clear indicator why people need to listen to mandatory evacuation orders," she said. "The media, the law enforcement, Red Cross, we know what we signed up for. But there are people in this hotel with small children and pets. Elderly people having to walk up 11 flights of stairs now that the power's out. Kids who are incredibly frightened by the storm."
Sweeny is among 300 volunteers and a dozen staff members from the Greater Salt Lake chapter of the American Red Cross helping people in the devastation left by Hurricane Ike, which slammed into the Gulf Coast. The relief agency said approximately 20,000 used their shelters when the storm hit on Friday.
The Red Cross has sent numerous volunteers into hurricane-ravaged areas to work in evacuee shelters.
"We got to help a lot of people in a lot of different ways," said Carmen Burson, a Red Cross volunteer from Kearns.
She returned late Friday night from Alexandria, La., where she had helped those evacuated for Hurricane Gustav.
When a hurricane threatens, volunteers are tapped from a national database. Burson described being prepared for massive evacuations in Dallas, but then moving farther toward the storm-affected areas as the damage lessened.
Two airplanes carrying 47,000 pounds of relief supplies left Salt Lake City on Wednesday bound for Haiti, which is recovering from Hurricane Ike. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also providing support in the Gulf Coast states, assembling 2,400 food boxes at a bishop's storehouse in Dallas, and storing sleeping bags, first aid kits, tents, tarps, hygiene and cleaning kits at distribution points across the area.
A church spokesman said late Saturday that all missionaries in the affected areas had been evacuated and were safe.
As Hurricane Ike's damage toll intensifies, the Red Cross is encouraging donations to a national disaster relief fund. The agency is seeking to raise $100 million to help pay for the organization's costs of feeding and sheltering the evacuees of Gustav and Ike, as well as helping families get back on their feet if their homes are damaged or destroyed.
As Hurricane Ike intensified, Sweeny described windows that shattered and people who had to flee to other rooms. Frustration evident in her voice, Sweeny said that when people are told to go they need to go. They also need to prepare for a disaster, she said. Many who showed up at her hotel had only a few personal items and didn't prepare for no running water and no plumbing."When you're told to go, you need to pack up your disaster supply kit, you can get that from redcross.org, and head to a Red Cross shelter away from the coast line," she said.
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