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Hoosiers helping with Hurricane Ida relief

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, with buildings destroyed, homes flooded and families stranded, Hoosier hospitality is on the move again.

INDIANAPOLIS — One day after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, the damage is clear.

It's why dozens of volunteers, first responders and power crews from Indiana are headed to the Gulf Coast right now.

When natural disasters hit, Hoosiers have a history of stepping up to help.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, with buildings destroyed, homes flooded and families stranded, Hoosier hospitality is on the move again.

Mary Finnegan is one of 21 volunteers with the Red Cross Indiana Region headed south, to the heart of the storm damage.

"I feel so bad for the people down there because this is devastating to them," Finnegan said.

It's this Army veteran's first deployment for the Red Cross. She just started volunteering with the organization in March.

Her destination for hurricane relief efforts: Baton Rouge.

RELATED: Indiana Task Force 1 responds to New Orleans after Hurricane Ida left many trapped, without power

Even for volunteers, the weather is making things tough.

"In Louisiana, all the airports are closed, so I'm flying into Dallas/Fort Worth, renting a car and driving there," Finnegan explained.

Once she arrives, she'll work with other Red Cross disaster relief teams to help people and their pets with the basics: a place to stay, food, clothing, resources.

"We're getting them into shelters and helping them get assistance from local agencies and from the Red Cross," Finnegan said.

Credit: WTHR
Mary Finnegan, a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer, left for Louisiana on Monday.

In New Orleans, besides punishing winds and flash flooding, Ida knocked out power to the entire city.

That's where the 45-member team of Indiana Task Force 1 got orders to move to Monday morning.

Their mission: search and rescue where people may be trapped.

Crews from AES Indiana just left for Louisiana Monday as well. Their exact assignment is still unknown, but the 15 trucks with 17 linesmen will work to restore power.

"It's going to be an emotional time for our crew but in the same sense, they know what to do, when to do it, quickly, safely and be able to respond and react," said AES Indiana Director of Operations Kelly Young.

RELATED: How to help with Hurricane Ida relief

They're all Hoosiers pledging to help in a time of critical need. Even more volunteers from the Red Cross in Indiana will be deployed to the region before week's end.

"Your heart breaks for those folks. I mean they're going to be starting over again. And that's very difficult," Finnegan said, "so hopefully we can help them with getting the resources they need to start putting their lives back together."

Credit: American Red Cross

As flood waters and high winds overwhelm the coast, Hoosier volunteers with the Red Cross are near Baton Rouge to help get people to safety. Executive Director Brice Johnson said they have a lot of work to do.

"Unfortunately, when a disaster happens like this, it adversely affects people of poverty more than it does of people who have means," said Johnson.

So far, they have opened 10-15 shelters but they'll need more. They are expecting to help thousands of people.

Johnson said he's focused on making sure the needs on the ground are shared with people deciding how resources are delivered.

"There's always issues with things like feeding and shelter space," said Johnson.

While every disaster is different, many of the Indy volunteers also helped when Hurricane Katrina hit. They're relying on what they learned 16 years ago to get them through.

"Technology has advanced since then. We learned a lot over the past 16 years, so we are feeling generally very good about our preparedness efforts in the community," said Johnson.

The Midwest Food Bank also is sending two trucks full of family food boxes to Louisiana. Each box can feed a family of four for up to five days.

The Indianapolis facility will be working with volunteers over the next few weeks to assemble more boxes. Click here to find out how you can help.

Teams know recovery is not going to happen overnight, and they need Hoosiers to step up and volunteer or make donations.

"We've got Hoosier hospitality. Indiana is a place where we enjoy a lot of blue-sky time where we don't have a lot of disasters happening to us. Because we don't have that happening to us, we have the opportunity to help others," said Johnson.

An opportunity he hopes we don't miss.

Click here for more information about how you can help the American Red Cross effort in In Louisiana. 

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