BLOOMINGTON — As Hurricane Florence pummeled the Carolinas with tidal surges, howling winds and torrential downpours, Central Illinoisans were preparing to respond with food, hygiene supplies and electricity.
At least four people were killed Friday as Florence, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday evening, swamped the Carolina coast with surging seas and drenching rain.
American Red Cross was sheltering more than 20,000 evacuees in about 200 shelters over six states and had served 47,000 meals and snacks in the Carolinas alone by Friday afternoon, Red Cross said.
About 2,000 Red Cross disaster relief workers nationwide have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence. That includes 54 from the American Red Cross Serving Central and Southern Illinois, including eight from the Bloomington-Normal area, said Amber MacGrath, Red Cross regional communications director.
Corn Belt Energy sent crews consisting of eight linemen, two large bucket trucks and two digger derricks to South River EMC in Dunn, N.C., said Corn Belt Communications Director Hillary Cherry.
Corn Belt is among 19 Illinois electric cooperatives sending crews to assist in rebuilding shattered electric systems in the wake of the hurricane, Cherry said.
As part of their emergency action plan and in conjunction with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, cooperatives through the country are banding together to assist electric cooperatives impacted by the storm.
Midwest Food Bank, based in Normal, has enough nonperishable food and hygiene supplies to fill 10 semitrailer trucks, Communications Director Phil Hodel said.
The food bank supplies and ships food and hygiene supplies to areas affected by disasters, with The Salvation Army handing the food and supplies directly to people in need.
Hodel expects Salvation Army to request the supplies next week.
At some point, the food bank will need help assembling more food boxes, he said. Central Illinoisans are asked to check the food bank's Facebook page and www.midwestfoodbank.org for future opportunities to help.
Ten Illinois Army National Guard soldiers and two helicopters have deployed to support relief effort in North Carolina, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced. The crews left from Peoria's 238th Aviation Battalion and Kankakee's 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment.
They will help for up to 10 days with North Carolina picking up the tab.