Local Red Cross volunteer deployed to Louisiana shares update on Hurricane Ida aftermath

NEW ORLEANS, L.A. (WLNE) – As volunteers with the American Red Cross arrive in Louisiana to help with Hurricane Ida’s aftermath, we’re checking in with local volunteers on their efforts.

“I’ve been with the American Red Cross 16 years. This past Saturday was my anniversary, the 29th of August. I started 16 years ago with Hurricane Katrina,” said Joe Apicelli of Groton, CT.

For Apicelli, this is his 48th national deployment. His first deployment was for Hurricane Katrina, and he said you can still feel that storm’s effects in the state.

“It’s a little eerie. You look around at people, and the anxiety and the memories of Katrina are definitely in their eyes,” he said. “The children that maybe have grown through Katrina when they were little, now they’re teenagers and they’re probably wondering what is gonna happen to my town again. So, it is a little unsettling for the residents here no matter what storm it is, cause Katrina’s always on their minds.”

As of Tuesday, Apicelli and fellow volunteer Susan are stationed in Baton Rouge but will be heading further south later this week.

“Our mission yesterday was to deliver hot food, water, and some snacks, etc, and actually maybe a little psychological first aid as well. I’ll be honest with you, it was treacherous to get to them. The roads are literally littered with debris, trees fallen, light poles, telephone wires in the road,” Apicelli said.

The pair had a close call themselves the other day when a tree fell in front of them on the interstate.

“Just ahead of me, the wind was blowing and the tree fell right in front of where I was driving. I was blessed to be able to dodge the tree, get in the next lane, the tree fell right at the wrong time.”

He said in his travels he’s kept in touch with many families he meets along the way. While he’ll soon be heading further into the destruction zone, he said he’s not scared, but instead he’s happy to help people through yet another disaster.

“I can’t tell you how many times you hear, thank you so much and God bless you. So how do you not survive on that? It just makes you feel wonderful.”

© WLNE-TV 2021

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