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Volunteers mobilize to help in wake of Hurricane Harvey – GoUpstate |

Volunteers mobilize to help in wake of Hurricane Harvey – GoUpstate

Volunteers and supplies are being mobilized in the Upstate to help people who are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.


The South Carolina chapter of the American Red Cross has sent 53 disaster relief workers — including six from the Upstate — to Texas to help those who have suffered devastation.

“It’s catastrophic,” said Lisa Colby, executive director of the Upstate Chapter of the American Red Cross. “All our staff is saying, ‘It’s reminding us of Katrina.’”

Hurricane Katrina was the 2005 Gulf Coast storm that was one of the deadliest and costliest storms in U.S. history.

Harvey, now a tropical storm, made landfall Friday in southeast Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, causing widespread wind damage and flooding. Some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 50 inches of rain this week before the storm leaves, the Associated Press reported.

Three Red Cross emergency response vehicles have also been sent to Texas, Colby said. The vehicles contain kitchen supplies, ready-to-eat meals, cots and blankets.

One South Carolina volunteer has also been sent to Louisiana, where devastating floods are also occurring.

Feeding victims

In Spartanburg, 150 certified volunteers and the mobile kitchen trailer of First Baptist Spartanburg are standing by awaiting word to head to Texas to cook meals for storm victims, according to Steve Wise, minister of missions. The call to action will come from the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and North American Mission Board in Georgia.

The First Baptist mobile unit has a generator and is powered by five propane gas tanks.

It can cook 6,000 meals a day. The kitchen is equipped with four convection ovens to cook meat and four skillets to cook vegetables and side dishes donated by the Red Cross, Wise said.

Between 25 and 30 volunteers are needed at one time to operate the equipment. The cooked food is placed in containers and delivered by Red Cross volunteers to wherever it is needed, such as neighborhoods or shelters, Wise said.

Wise is familiar with emergency responses. He operated the mobile kitchen in New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in Columbia about two years ago after severe flooding damaged South Carolina’s capital.

He said the situation in Texas and Louisiana is still unfolding, so it remains to be seen when his unit will be called.

Cleaning up

A Spartanburg businessman also is headed to Houston to help homeowners and businesses put their lives back together.

Thomas Maguire, owner of PuroClean Restoration Rescuers, is headed to Houston with two crew members, two production vehicles and a 45-foot trailer loaded with equipment and cleaning supplies.

They were in Shreveport, La., on Monday and planned to finish the five-hour trip to Houston on Tuesday.

“Our initial plan was to go to Houston (Monday),” Maguire said. “We’re just waiting for some of the water to clear and recede.”

Maguire said his franchise has an agreement with other PuroClean businesses to help each other out. He said he will be teaming up with some 250 crew members from Dallas and Houston to work with insurance companies to clean up homes and businesses.

Once crews can get started, it typically takes five to seven days to clean up a home, and longer for a commercial property, Maguire said.

At a flood-damaged home, crews will typically remove drywall, insulation and flooring — anything that soaked in water. Then the homes is washed down and sanitized, then dried.

“We then turn the property back to the owners and they’ll start rebuilding,” Maguire said.

He added: “This looks along the lines of something biblical. I feel bad for the people of Houston.”

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