Chicago area organizations mobilize to help Florida residents as Hurricane Ian forces evacuations

Hurricane Ian is churning in the Gulf of Mexico, and people in the Tampa Bay area are bracing for what could be the first direct hit in more than a century.

Now, disaster relief teams in the Chicago area are mobilizing support.

Several organizations and companies – including the American Red Cross, The Anti-Cruelty Society, and ComEd – are sending resources and workers to Florida during this dire time.

"We have hundreds of Red Cross volunteers who have been trained and who have responded to disasters like this in the past," said Connie Esparza, communications manager, American Red Cross of Illinois. "All states are on board, we’re one Red Cross."

The American Red Cross is closely monitoring Hurricane Ian's path, and has already sent hundreds of volunteers to Florida. More help is on the way, including many teams from Illinois.


With them, they are bringing emergency supplies in anticipation of Hurricane Ian’s landfall.

On the ground, they are preparing to set up evacuation sites where they'll provide displaced families with food, shelter, and in some cases, medical and mental health assistance.

"To help people in one of their worst moments of their life," said Esparza. "Many times people leave and depending on how long they are going to stay in a shelter, may not have adequate supply of medicine or medical devices, so we’re there to provide mass care."

On Tuesday morning, ComEd sent more than 250 workers to Florida and Georgia to help restore power outages and take care of downed lines and poles. Those crews should be arriving to Florida by Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, The Anti-Cruelty Society is working on a different mission – clearing space in Florida’s shelters by bringing cats and dogs to Chicago.  

"Dogs and cats and other pets that are lost during the storm, you want to have room to take them in so they can be reunited with their families," said Tracy Elliott, president & CEO of The Anti-Cruelty Society.

At least 35 dogs and cats from Jupiter, Florida are set to arrive in Chicago this Saturday. Once they are medically screened, many of them will be ready for adoption.

"These are animals that are up for adoption right now, and so when they get there they should be ready to go and we will get them on the adoption floor as quickly as possible," said Elliott. "We're able to do it because Chicago is such a compassionate community."

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