Elkhart County’s American Red Cross executive director arrived in White Plains, N.Y., Saturday to prepare for Hurricane Sandy.
Frank Connolly will oversee all efforts to provide shelter throughout the state, including New York City, in advance of a storm that could produce torrential rains, high winds, major flooding, power outages and even snow in parts of the region.
Connolly is one of nearly a dozen volunteers from Elkhart, Kosciusko, and St. Joseph counties who left on pre-deployment to the East Coast Saturday, according to a news release from the Red Cross.
The volunteers will work primarily to open shelters, serve meals and manage operations. Additional volunteers will deploy after the storm hits to manage damage assessment, provide communications and continue to help with shelter operation.
Connolly had just arrived home Friday afternoon from a training session in Cleveland when he got a call about 2 p.m. asking if he could head to New York. By 10 a.m. Saturday, he was on a plane.
Despite the hype surrounding the storm, which is expected to reach much of the region by Monday or Tuesday, Connolly sounded a bit matter-of-fact about what’s to come during a phone interview Saturday night.
“We don’t really get too worked up about those reports because they’re always wrong. It’s just a question to what degree are they wrong.” Connolly said. “Rarely do they get it exactly right, which is par for the course. Nobody can predict the future.”
White Plains is just a few miles north of New York City, and he thinks the office location was chosen because it’s high enough above sea level to avoid flooding, but still close to the metropolis.
Tentatively, the state has 70 shelters that can be opened quickly, he said.
On Saturday night, he was working in the basement of a nondescript office building and is surrounded by people using phones and computers to prepare for the disaster.
Connolly joined the Red Cross about four years ago and has participated in about eight to ten disaster relief efforts. His first involvement in disaster relief came following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The volunteer work, he said, is life-changing
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience when you can look somebody in the eye who has just lost everything and you say, ‘I can help,’ ” he said. “I promise you, it will change your life in a positive way.”