Falling trees and flying debris killed four people in Florida as Hurricane Katrina bore down on southern Florida early Friday and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite its movement into the Florida gulf, Katrina is not expected to interfere with oil rigs off the coast of Louisiana and Texas, Reuters reported.
However, heavy rainfall is still predicted for much of Florida’s coastal areas and could cause flooding and road closures.
After a short-lived downgrade to a tropical storm, Katrina once again reached hurricane status Friday as it moved slowly westward away from south Florida and the South Keys.
The National Weather Service still has a tropical storm warning in effect for all of the Florida Keys and Florida Bay, and along the Florida gulf coast from south of Florida City westward and northward to Longboat Key. A tropical storm watch remains in effect for portions of the Florida west coast from north of Longboat Key to Anclote Key.
By midday Friday, the center of Hurricane Katrina was located about 45 miles northwest of Key West and about 75 miles south-southwest of Naples. Katrina is moving toward the west at 7 mph, and is expected to continue in this direction for the next 24 hours.
The weather service reported sustained winds of nearly 100 mph with higher gusts and upgraded Katrina to a Category 2 hurricane. Some strengthening is forecasted during the next 24 hours, and Katrina could become a Category 3 hurricane on Saturday.
Storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels can be expected along the west coast of Florida in areas of onshore flow south of Venice and in Florida Bay.
Katrina is expected to produce additional rainfall of 5 to 8 inches over the Florida Keys and 3 to 5 inches over northwestern Cuba. Isolated storm total amounts of 15 to 20 inches are possible over the Florida Keys.
In the wake of a storm, truckers can play an important role in the relief effort by providing donated time, labor and, of course, transportation for supplies and rebuilding in crisis areas, said Patricia Kraemer, disaster and emergency services director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the American Red Cross.
“We always need trucks to pick up supplies and take them to shelters and such,” Kraemer said. “We are always in need of transportation of supplies and free labor.”
Kraemer said it is important to contact the Red Cross as soon as you decide to become involved with the relief effort.
“People contact us to volunteer,” Kraemer. “We go from there, letting them know what our needs are, what their availability is and what they have to offer that could assist us.”
Although truckers’ help is always appreciated, DevorahGoldburg, spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said some chapters of the organization might feel that an overwhelming volunteer response from truckers could complicate the logistical problems in a disaster area.
Goldburg said truckers who want to become involved with the relief effort should contact the American Red Cross headquarters or get in touch with a Red Cross chapter in the disaster area. If load-hauling assistance is not needed or wanted, she recommended donating blood, money or taking part in one of the Red Cross’s other disaster volunteer programs.
For more information on volunteering with the American Red Cross or any of its local chapters located in areas of tropical storm activity, please contact:
- American Red Cross
- Southeast Louisiana chapter
- Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter
- Alabama and Central Gulf Coast region
- American Red Cross of Central Florida
- East Georgia chapter
- South Carolina Lowcountry chapter