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Arizona Red Cross volunteers helping those impacted by Florence

Southeast Tennessee American Red Cross Disaster Program Manager Jerry Wang puts tape on a welcome poster to hang at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

PHOENIX – Dozens of Red Cross volunteers from the Arizona/New Mexico/El Paso region, including 27 from the Greater Phoenix chapter, are on the ground in areas that have been battered by Hurricane Florence.

“Those are your neighbors that have set aside their personal lives to respond to Hurricane Florence to help those people in need,” Colin Williams, American Red Cross spokesman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

According to the Red Cross, more than 20,000 people stayed in around 200 shelters Thursday night in states hit by the storm, mostly in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The humanitarian group mobilized around 2,000 disaster workers from around the country to help those displaced.

“The Red Cross volunteers that are there now are really just doing the full gamut of things,” Williams said.

The volunteers have been driving emergency response vehicles, operating shelters and distributing food and supplies, among other things, Williams said.

“Right now our main focus is safety and giving people a safe place to stay and something to eat,” he said.

Responders from the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona also are contributing to the effort. Rangers from Arizona are working with urban search and rescue teams in North Carolina.

Red Cross deployments typically run for two weeks, but it’s expected that the affected region will need help longer than that, so additional volunteers will be needed.

“It’s probably going to take a few months. … If somebody wants to volunteer for the Red Cross, now is a great opportunity to step up,” Williams said.

For information about volunteering or making a donation, call 800-RED-CROSS or visit RedCross.org.

Another way to help is to text FLORENCE to 90999, which provides a $10 donation to the Red Cross.

The phone number and website also can be used to find information about giving blood. More than 140 blood drives had to be canceled because of the storm.

By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakening to 70 mph as it pushed inland. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3½ feet as the storm crawled westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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