Lending a hand: Jacksonville agencies help in aftermath of Hurricane Laura

The Jacksonville Community is lending a hand to those affected by the storm. News4Jax reporter Brittany Muller is live

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Community is lending a hand from utility crews and the red cross to Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi after Hurricane Laura blasted through the gulf coast.

JEA crews are expected to start working Friday to assist in power restoration. American Red Cross crews left Northeast Florida Thursday.

“We were holding people back because of the nature of the storm earlier in the week,” said Christian Smith, American Red Cross. “Our territory goes from Jacksonville to Pensacola, so what we do we call fencing and we hold everyone back in those immediate areas so in the event we need to send people to Pensacola or Panama City now that that has been opened and the storm has lack of a better word has passed that gives us the flexibility.”

Smith tells News4Jax they are also doing a lot of remote because of the pandemic.

“We have about 400 volunteers on the ground that we’ve learned [Thursday] morning that is safe which is very important and we also have an additional 140 people coming from across the country so our community will be part of that” Smith said.

Smith said after a storm, disaster relief crews start with damage assessment working hand-in-hand with local emergency management and law enforcement. It’s a targeted approach.

“Assessing what are the emergency needs are and what are the community needs going to be,” she said. “Are there areas we can’t get to -- the answer is yes. “Are there communities that don’t have access to food and water -- the answer is yes.”

Because of the pandemic, Smith said there are not as many people going into the large congregate shelters. There are many components of mental health, first aid, emergency needs, and tragedy.

“This will be a huge undertaking and it’s only just the beginning when you think back to the anniversary of Katrina will be on Saturday this will be that kind of response when you see these large scale things.”

JEA is also no stranger to assisting in response efforts. It sent 31 crew members and 35 pieces of equipment to Louisiana to assist Lafayette Utilities there in power restoration efforts. JEA crews left on Wednesday from both westside and southside service centers.

RELATED: Florida, Georgia utilities ready to help Gulf Coast in aftermath of storms

The Red Cross says the Jacksonville community has already contributed monetary donations. If you would like to help, Smith recommends donating to disaster relief on its website.

You can also sign up to volunteer.