Ruth Lathrop isn’t sure exactly what she’ll face when she arrives in the areas of Louisiana ravaged by Hurricane Ida. But when she gets there, she knows people will have difficult stories to share about the storm and the destruction it left behind.

Lathrop, a Red Cross volunteer from Windham, flew to Houston on Monday and spent Tuesday driving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she will spend the next couple weeks assessing damage from the hurricane to help the Red Cross coordinate assistance for those whose homes were destroyed or damaged. Last year, she spent a month in the same area after it was hit by a hurricane.

Ruth Lathrop of Windham pauses to take a selfie on her way to Louisiana to help with the Hurricane Ida response.

“A lot of times, we are the first ones people see after the disaster. These people are so happy to see us,” Lathrop said Tuesday by phone while traveling from Texas to Baton Rouge. “They like to tell their stories. They tell us what they’ve lived through and we’re there to listen.”

The Red Cross of Northern New England has deployed two emergency response vehicles and 15 volunteers from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to the areas affected by Hurricane Ida. Lathrop is one of six volunteers from Maine.

Hurricane Ida made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana on Sunday as a dangerous Category 4 storm, lashing both Louisiana and Mississippi with rain, relentless wind and a massive storm surge. More than a million homes and businesses in the two states were left without power by one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. mainland. The damage was so extensive that officials say it could be weeks before the power grid is repaired.

While much of the focus is now on Louisiana and Mississippi, the Red Cross also has volunteers from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont deployed to California to assist with temporary shelters, food and water for people who have been evacuated because of wildfires.

The volunteers in Louisiana will spend at least the next two weeks, and possibly longer, using the emergency response vehicles to bring food and water into neighborhoods. Other volunteers, including Lathrop, will assess damage to help the Red Cross determine how many people need assistance and the best ways to help.

While a dozen New England volunteers are already in Louisiana or on their way, more could soon follow.

“The storm has gone, but we’re going to be there for months assisting these clients,” said Edward Blanchard, the deputy disaster officer for Red Cross of Northern New England. “Right now, we’re actively training and recruiting volunteers to send out to help the clients impacted by Ida.”

Blanchard said the volunteers with the emergency response vehicles can serve up to 500 meals at a time to people who may not have access to food because they are focused on their damaged homes and are far from services.

“We already have reports of clients that have a home, but they have to get all the water and debris out. They’re at their dwelling trying to get this stuff taken care of and they’re not thinking about making sure they’re getting a meal,” he said.

Blanchard said that some evacuation shelters already have closed, so the Red Cross is working to make sure that anyone who needs shelter has it. On Sunday night, more than 2,500 people stayed in Red Cross shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, but that number is expected to rise in the coming days as power outages continue and people leave homes that are too damaged to live in.

The Red Cross has learned that many people sheltered in their homes, so the number of people who stayed in shelters is not a good indicator of the number of people impacted by the storm, Blanchard said.

Lathrop hopes that the work she’ll do over the next two weeks will help bring assistance to the people who need it while also bringing comfort to those whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

“What they’re dealing with most of the time is the loss of everything they own,” she said.

Lathrop, who also volunteers with Meals on Wheels, began volunteering with the Red Cross six years ago. Originally from South Carolina, she said one of the reasons she felt called to help was her personal experiences dealing with hurricane damage before moving to Maine.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: