The Bluegrass Region of the American Red Cross sent two volunteers to Oklahoma on Tuesday to help victims of the devastating tornadoes.
Winn Stephens, director of development for the Bluegrass region, said volunteers Ramona Hibbard of Manchester and Russ Hoff of Lexington would work in shelters and feed people. They are scheduled to stay in Oklahoma for 14 to 21 days.
Stephens said the two volunteers would drive an emergency response vehicle to Oklahoma.
"Once they're there, they could be driving the truck and delivering supplies, or they could get pulled off to another assignment," he said.
Never miss a local story.
Other volunteers could be sent to Oklahoma later, Stephens said.
"We have put a call out to our mental health volunteers as well as our mass-care volunteers, and so we expect more that may be deploying either later today or first thing tomorrow, but we don't know exactly how many that may be or in what areas," he said. Mass care volunteers help with feeding and sheltering victims; mental health volunteers are counselors.
Stephens said it's important for Kentuckians to help in Oklahoma because they've been through something similar: the powerful weather front in March 2012 that unleashed the state's deadliest wave of tornadoes in 38 years. The tornadoes devastated areas of Eastern Kentucky, including the town of West Liberty.
During last year's storms, Stephens said, the chapter received donations from all over the country. The money was used "to provide shelter and clothing and food," he said.
"This is what we're here to do, and we want to make sure that we're able to provide that service, and the only way we can provide that is through the generosity of the American public," Stephens said.
Another Lexington resident, Jamie Baker of Lexington, is heading to Oklahoma with Disaster Relief at Work.
Baker, who went with the organization last fall to New Orleans after Hurricane Isaac hit, said the group will help clean up the destruction.
"We go wherever help is needed the most," she said. "We'll probably just be doing a lot of cleanup and house repair, if we can, and just helping people, talking them through it and everything."
Baker said helping people through something like this puts into perspective how fortunate she is.
"There's nothing better than helping out your neighbor, no matter how far across the United States it might be," she said.
Battalion Chief Joe Best, spokesman for the Lexington fire department, said no Lexington firefighters will be sent to Oklahoma.
"Federally, they're mobilizing departments in, from our understanding, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee," Best said. "We're not part of that."
Cliff Feltham, the Kentucky Utilities spokesman, said the company doesn't plan to send anyone to Oklahoma. That decision could change in the next 48 hours, he said.
"We're waiting until the storm runs its course and comes out of the Midwest and comes through here to see what kind of damage, if any, is going to be caused as it moves through here," he said.
Feltham said officials will then assess needs in Kentucky and decide whether they can send anybody to the Midwest. He said they need to make sure the storm clears their entire service territory, from the Mississippi River to the Virginia state line.
"When it finally gets out of state and either has or has not caused the state problems, then we can decide what we're going to do," Feltham said.
Meteorologist Chris Bailey said the entire state has a slight risk of severe weather Wednesday.
"The farther east that this system gets, it is going to be in a much weaker fashion than what it was when it produced the devastating tornadoes across the plains," Bailey said.
He said it's a small threat, but one storm can change everything.
Thursday should see nothing worse than windy showers, and on Friday it will probably be cooler, with sunshine and highs in the upper 60s.
"Obviously, any time that there's a severe weather threat, there's always at least a small or isolated tornado threat," Bailey said. "But the greatest threat over the next couple days would be from high winds and large hail."
How to help
There are a variety of ways to donate to help residents of Oklahoma.
The American Red Cross is acting as a clearinghouse for donations. Call 1-800-733-2767 or go to Redcross.org. To contact the Bluegrass Area Chapter, call (859) 253-1331. To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text the word Redcross to 90999. The amount will be added to your next phone bill.