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More Bay Area Volunteers Head To Gulf Coast In Wake Of Isaac

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Hurricane Isaac Hits New Orleans, Gulf Coast

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Dozens of Bay Area volunteers have been in the southern U.S. for more than a week assisting those affected by Hurricane Isaac, a Red Cross spokeswoman said Friday.

The hurricane, which was downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday, made landfall earlier this week and flooded streets, destroyed homes, and knocked out power, leaving residents in need of shelter and resources—which is where the Red Cross has stepped in.

Eighty Bay Area Red Cross volunteers from the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Area chapters had initially focused volunteer efforts in Florida, but as the slow-moving storm moved along the coast, volunteers have been deployed into Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Red Cross spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw said.

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The volunteers primarily helped with sheltering and feeding disaster victims before the hurricane struck and now in the aftermath of the storm are assisting those affected with casework, especially those with damaged homes.

More than 3,000 Red Cross volunteers nationwide have been deployed to affected states.

Now the Red Cross is keeping track of Tropical Storm Leslie, which could become a hurricane over the weekend, weather officials said.

“We keep a close eye on the tropics,” Shaw said.

She said volunteers are usually deployed for about two to three weeks, before a new batch of volunteers are brought in.

“This is a hard time, after the hurricane has passed,” Shaw said Friday. She said dealing with the destruction and reconnecting people to missing family members can be emotional for volunteers.

The clean-up process is not quick, according to Shaw. With flooding, the waters take a long time to recede.

Flash flood warnings are in effect along the coastal region, according to the weather service.

The weeks-long relief operation incurs high costs, Shaw noted, which Red Cross officials estimate could reach tens of millions of dollars.

Despite a need for additional funding and resources, volunteers have been working along the Gulf Coast setting up mobile feeding stations, handing out supplies and sheltering those with destroyed homes.

Shaw said the Bay Area volunteers sleep in shelters just like disaster victims, and there have been moments throughout the week where volunteers had to brace against severe weather themselves.

More than 15 inches of precipitation have deluged many parts of Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi in the past day, according to the National Weather Service, with 20 inches recorded in New Orleans.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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