ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A number of Alaskans are packing their bags and flying south to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
As of Monday evening, three volunteers with Red Cross of Alaska were deployed out of Anchorage to help provide food, comfort and shelter to those forced out of their homes due to the historic flooding in Texas. A fourth Red Cross volunteer is expected to leave from Fairbanks on Tuesday, with a much larger Alaskan response predicted over the coming weeks.
“We deployed 200 people from Alaska down to [Hurricane] Katrina, and we're expecting a similar response for this hurricane as well,” said regional communications director Lisa Miller with the Red Cross of Alaska.
Alaska’s robust military assets are lending its support to the Houston area. An Alaska Air National Guard C-17 flew out of JBER on Monday morning to assist in humanitarian and rescue efforts. Twenty-one Airmen, including 13 Guardian Angels from the 212th Rescue Squadron, departed for a final destination of Fort Hood.
According to a press release from the Alaska Air National Guard, the Airmen “will be tasked with missions to support the Texas National Guard and the state of Texas with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and as ongoing storm conditions continue to inflict damage.”
“We really wanted to step up to the plate and do what we could,” said communications officer Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead for the Alaska Air National Guard. “We've got some very uniquely and highly trained specialists, and it made sense for them to be there.”
US Coast Guard forces based in Alaska also sent resources to integrate with national rescue and recovery efforts. According to Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios, seven Coast Guardsmen, including two pilots, two mechanics, two people in incident command and one water rescue service member, volunteered to the Houston area after receiving a request for services.
“In this case with [Hurricane] Harvey, Air Station Sitka and also Coast Guard Sector Juneau and Coast Guard District 17 were able to give up a couple people,” said Rios.
Rios said deploying the Coast Guardsmen to Texas will not affect Alaska rescue operations.
According to Miller, the Red Cross of Alaska has received an “outpouring” of inquiries from the community about how to help. She said people can go to redcross.org/alaska to donate money or to sign up to be a volunteer. People can also text HARVEY to 9099 to make an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross.