Amid whipping, eerie-sounding winds that made "the rain go sideways," Sam Kille, a Red Cross communications director from Mineola, was outside in New Orleans doing media interviews before dawn Wednesday, as Hurricane Isaac arrived.
The storm "is on top of us," he said later from his French Quarter hotel room where the lights were still on, even as more than 566,000 Louisiana residents had no power.
About 5,200 people sought refuge Tuesday night in the organization's nearly 80 shelters, most of them in Louisiana and Mississippi, said Kille, communications director for the Greater New York Regional Red Cross, who was stationed in the heart of the city.
As of Tuesday, 35 volunteers from metropolitan area had been dispatched to the Gulf Coast, with eight Long Islanders in the New Orleans vicinity or headed there, said John Miller, chief executive of the American Red Cross on Long Island.
More than 2,400 Red Cross workers and volunteers are in the Gulf, with the number expected to rise in the face of the potential for major flooding and possible tornadoes, Kille said.
Once the storm passes and the winds die down, which was not expected to happen Wednesday, Red Cross damage assessment teams will canvass neighborhoods to determine, along with information from government agencies, just where services are needed, he said.
While this storm may not be as devastating as Hurricane Katrina, which hit the area seven years ago Wednesday, many people still have Katrina on their minds, Kille said.
Isaac "is bringing back a lot of memories," and that means that along with food and shelter, providing "emotional support" will be a major factor for the volunteer team, he said.