Alaskans to help in Hurricane Florence relief efforts

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Alaskans from all corners of the state are volunteering for Red Cross disaster relief for Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Florence is prompting an evacuation order of over one million people. Cari Dighton with the Red Cross of Alaska says the state is doing its part to help.

"We have folks from Prince of Wales Island to Juneau to Sitka to Fairbanks in the far north, from the Mat-Su, from Anchorage," Dighton said.

Dighton is in a Red Cross emergency response vehicle, the same kind that will be used in relief efforts for Hurricane Florence. It is designed to distribute resources to large groups of displaced people.

"We can store food in these shelves here,” Dighton said as she pointed to compartments in the emergency response vehicle. “We can load these cam grills with food and have it across here, turn around and we can distribute meals, snacks, water, drinks through these windows here."

There are also some Alaskans already living in the area who gave Channel 2 a glimpse of the calm before the storm.

Ryan Howell with the Army 18th Airborne Corps moved to North Carolina with his wife Mary after being stationed in both Anchorage and Fairbanks.

“Seems like no matter where we get stationed in the Army, there's always something that can happen to you,” Howell said. “Up in Alaska, both in Anchorage and Fairbanks, you had stuff in the car because that any time you could be stuck on the highway at -30 out. And here it's just hurricanes."

The Howells live near Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the eye of Florence is forecast to pass over. They are not evacuating, but they remain cautious.

"You know in Alaska, you have big huge trees. They can hold the snow, and they're pretty sturdy,” Howell's wife Mary said. “So here it's like you see these little old dinky pine trees, they could come down on your house at any minute. That's the worst thing that we are worrying about is the wind and stuff like that."

Al Sokaitis, previously a UAF basketball coach, runs Red Cross relief shelters. He's opened a shelter in a National Guard armory, where he says people are already pouring in.

"Right now, we are taking people into the shelter,” Sokaitis said. “You have to make sure you keep them warm safe and dry, give them food, take care of their basic needs. And try to give them some security."

He expects at least 100 people in his shelter by the time Florence hits. Sokaitis says it's times like these that can often unite us.

“In times of tragedy, it's America at its best because people reach out to one another and they don't care about someone's political views, they just care about trying to make their life a little easier in a tough time,” Sokaitis said.

The Red Cross of Alaska currently has over 700 volunteers ready to deploy to Hurricane Florence relief efforts if needed.

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