Chicago-area Red Cross volunteers ready to help those stranded by Hurricane Ian, some of whom are vacationers


CHICAGO (CBS) — Florida was in the middle of a direct hit Wednesday night from Hurricane Ian – one of the most powerful storms in US history.

Hurricane Ian’s winds reached 150 mph when it made landfall Wednesday in Cayo Costa, Florida – and Wednesday evening it was still too early to assess the damage.

But as CBS 2’s Sabrina Franza reported Wednesday night, help from the Chicago area is on the way.

A woman takes off Thursday morning and spoke to Franza ahead of her two-week deployment. This woman is Yasmin Clinton, manager of the American Red Cross shelter.

“I do it because it’s for me, the one time I feel like people really need help,” Clinton said.

This will be Clinton’s 10th deployment with the American Red Cross. This time, she will oversee shelters for those who have had to flee their homes.

Homes were rendered uninhabitable by the intense storm surge from Ian as the slow-moving major Category 4 hurricane rocked the southwest portion of Florida.

“Make sure they’re fed, they have a place to sleep — and then we’ll start helping them with their other needs,” Clinton said.

Clinton didn’t get much notice. But that doesn’t mean she’s unprepared — in fact, she had a backpack ready to hit the porch.

“I keep this particular backpack packed, and then, you know, I’m ready to go anytime,” she said.

In the five years that Clinton has worked with the Red Cross, the motivation and the mission have remained the same.

“I really like seeing the faces of customers when they’re ready to go home,” she said.

Home is much further away for some of the hurricane victims than for others. Some were on vacation in Florida.

“We were supposed to go to Disney and Universal,” said Elizabeth Strama of New Carlisle, Indiana. “Everything has just been cancelled.”

Strama and her husband were planning to go to Disney World for their 11th birthday – far, far away in northern Indiana. They are now safe.

“We woke up this morning, went downstairs and the queues were outrageous outside reception – I guess people are leaving today or walking in and trying to figure out where to go,” Strama said.

Strama and her husband sent us a video of Disney characters soothing children in the resort lobby – and they reported that there were nearly two hours of queues for food at the restaurant. Trees were seen blowing from their window.

“We’re selling our house, remodeling it — tons of stuff with that,” she said. “I just needed some kind of break; birthday getaway.”

Currently, Strama and her husband are not allowed to leave their compound until they are cleared. Their return flight is supposed to be Monday.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s flight with the Red Cross was scheduled to take off early Thursday morning.

CBS partners with the Red Cross to help hurricane victims. We have created a website through which you can send donations. Go to CBSNews.com/redcross.


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