SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross sent five disaster workers to the Gulf Coast to prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac, while San Diego-based International Relief Teams was doing some early groundwork in case more help is needed, the agencies reported Monday.
By early afternoon, Pacific Time, the National Hurricane Center reported that Isaac was strengthening, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just short of hurricane force. It's expected to make landfall Wednesday near the Louisiana/Mississippi border.
Courtney Pendleton of the American Red Cross in San Diego said five workers were deployed to Florida to assist chapters in areas that might be affected by the storm. After Isaac started moving west, at least one of the five was re-deployed, she said.
Meanwhile, Barry LaForge, executive director of International Relief Teams, told City News Service he has been on the phone with health departments in the states where landfall might occur to double-check on licensing requirements for medical teams that might be deployed from San Diego.
LaForge said a contact at the Department of Nursing in Mississippi told him that Isaac was "a small storm compared to Katrina" and the media was "overblowing it."
He said he did not agree with that assessment.
"Hurricanes are unpredictable," LaForge said. "That thing could sit out (in the Gulf of Mexico) and strengthen to a Category 2."
Hurricanes are rated from 1-5, with 5 being the strongest.
IRT had medical teams in Mississippi for three months following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to provide basic medical support services, like making sure victims of chronic illnesses took their medicine, treating wounds and giving tetanus shots, he said. Nearly 40 volunteer construction teams were later sent to the area to repair or rebuild houses -- the last one earlier this year.
He said he had no idea whether a response will even be needed this time.
"We're just kind of monitoring the situation right now," LaForge said.