OGDEN — Dozens of volunteers from Utah are expected to travel to southern Louisiana this week with the American Red Cross in response to devastating flooding there.
The torrential rainfall Saturday caused massive flooding on Sunday that killed at least six people and led to more than 20,000 others being rescued from their homes in and around Baton Rouge and Lafayette. More than 11,000 flooding victims are currently displaced in shelters.
In all, 60 emergency response vehicles equipped by the Red Cross are expected to make the trip to Louisiana to distribute various kinds of aid. One such vehicle from the Red Cross office in Ogden, accompanied by two volunteers, already is on its way. Another emergency response vehicle is expected to leave Salt Lake City soon.
"We're going to have dozens of volunteers (from Utah)," said Rich Woodruff, spokesman for the Red Cross in Utah.
Nationwide, the Red Cross anticipates 1,500 traveling volunteers. In all, nine Utah volunteers had left for Baton Rouge as of Monday afternoon. About 15 more were expected to leave by the same time Tuesday, and more plan to leave after that.
Ultimately, the volunteer response from Utah is expected to be "almost to the level of Hurricane Sandy" in 2012 and the biggest since that time, Woodruff said.
"This will play out over time. It's very chaotic," he said. "It's unfolding as we speak. But it's a big operation for the Red Cross."
Michael Smauldon, one of the local volunteers, said he was moved by the devastation he saw on TV.
"I was just astonished and saw it on the news," said Smauldon, who also works as an executive for Red Cross. "I reached out and said, 'Where can I help?'"
Smauldon and others plan to serve hot meals to flood victims from emergency response vehicles and set up emergency shelters.
"If I was in their shoes, I would want somebody to come help me," he said.
Smauldon plans to be in Louisiana for about two weeks. He and other volunteers are sorely needed in the area, he said, which makes the trip worth it.
"It's a little bit scary," Smauldon said. "But it's really exciting to go help everybody who needs our help."
The enormous flooding was caused by a relentless downpour that lasted about 48 hours and dropped about 2 feet of precipitation in some areas, emergency officials have said. Less than 1 in 5 affected homes are estimated to have flood insurance.
Along with the many thousands who were rescued, local emergency workers evacuated more than 500 pets from flooded areas.
Anyone interested in donating to the flooding relief efforts can do by texting LAFLOODS to the Red Cross at 90999 and following ensuing instructions. Donations can also be made by visiting redcross.org or calling 800-733-2767.
Contributing: Jed Boal, Associated Press
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