CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The American Red Cross is keeping a close watch on Hurricane Earl as the storm approaches the U.S. coast.
Earl is a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds hitting 125 miles per hour and is expected to impact parts of the North Carolina coast over the next few days, before heading north. The storm is expected to bring lots of rain, high surf and dangerous rip currents.
Earl is the second storm to move through the Atlantic in the last week, coming on the heels of Hurricane Danielle.
The Lowcountry chapter of the American Red Cross is currently responding to the threat by communicating with local government partners to share readiness ability and assess needs as the storm approaches.
The Red Cross is conducting a call-down to volunteers to check on their availability to respond and to remind them to have their family's preparedness plans in place. The Red Cross is also reaching out to Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) partners to share its readiness status.
"This year, hurricane season was predicted to be very busy and the Red Cross is prepared if those forecasts come true," said Joe Becker, senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services. "We are on the ground in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, supporting local Red Cross efforts there. Disaster relief supplies are ready in warehouses in both areas. We are also finalizing response preparations with local, state and federal government agencies along the East Coast should the storm head for the U.S. mainland."
The Red Cross deployed a seven-member disaster relief team with experience on logistics, feeding, mass care and operations to the U.S. Virgin Islands Saturday. The Cross and government partners opened four shelter facilities earlier this week. Shelter are located on St. Thomas, St. Croix, and two more are on St. John. The shelters are staffed with Red Cross and government workers and have cots, blankets and food in them. In addition, there is a Red Cross warehouse on St. Thomas stocked with additional disaster relief supplies that are ready to be dispatched where needed.
The chain of Atlantic storms has been causing powerful rip currents all along the East Coast. With the Labor Day holiday weekend only a few days away, the Red Cross advises anyone visiting eastern shore points to swim only on lifeguard-protected beaches, within the designated swimming areas.
If caught in a rip current, remember the following:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Never fight against the current.
- Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
- If unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If unable to reach shore, yell for help and draw attention to yourself.
- Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
"The most important thing people can do is prepare now in case their area ends up in the path of this storm," Becker said. "Don't wait until the last minute. Safety is the top priority."
Hurricane preparedness tips and ways to help people affected by the storm are at www.LowcountryRedCross.org.