As Florida and the East Coast brace for a pummeling from Hurricane Matthew, the impacts can be felt in the Cincinnati area as local organizations scramble to assist areas hit, and travelers anticipate complications from the storm.
MORE: Man looking for wife in post-Hurricane Matthew Haiti
Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and small islands across the Caribbean have already faced the brute force of Matthew — a storm packing winds stronger than Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Forecasters estimate the storm will pass by Florida early Friday morning, and come through the East Coast and the Carolinas during the weekend. The destructive storm already caused at least 11 deaths in the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti — and 120 mph winds hammered the southern Bahamas.
Entities in the Cincinnati area, including the American Red Cross and Matthew 25 Ministries, are extending aid to areas bracing for flooding, damaged infrastructure and widespread debris.
The Cincinnati Area Red Cross has two volunteers already deployed to North Carolina. Five Red Cross volunteers and a disaster relief truck waited on standby overnight Tuesday in Cincinnati. Although many residents of hurricane-affected states have already evacuated, many others will not be able to do so — and will be forced to take shelter in areas that could still be affected by the storm.
The local Red Cross volunteers are packing an emergency response vehicle especially for delivering bulk disaster relief supplies like meals and bottles of water.
“Initially, in the first part of a disaster like this, our focus is on mass care, with the sheltering of folks and feeding them,” said Red Cross region disaster officer John Bernard.
Bernard said he expected the Cincinnati team, one of many in the United States placed on standby for the hurricane, to be called into action by today.
Twenty-three staff members of Matthew 25 Ministries were already in Haiti on Tuesday, prepared to provide relief to people affected by the disaster.
“Cincinnati is always very generous whenever there is any type of disaster,” said CEO Tim Mettey. “Whether it’s Louisiana flooding or tornadoes that hit Texas, you know, Cincinnati comes and helps.”
The floodwaters in Haiti were initially too high for Matthew 25 Ministries staffers to safely venture outside, but Mettey said they would hit the ground running and distribute emergency supplies, including clean water, personal hygiene products and food, as soon as the water receded to an acceptable level.
Across the country, travel plans have been delayed or canceled as experts predict delays — even for flyers traveling to destinations unaffected by the hurricane. Cindy Antrican, public affairs manager of AAA, cautioned travelers to contact their travel agents or airlines.
Linda Hughes, air service coordinator for Dayton International Airport, said no flights were canceled or delayed out of the local airport as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Flyers can check with their airlines if they have any concerns,” Hughes said.
Some airlines are offering waivers for travels coming from or going to areas hit by Matthew. If the forecast holds steady, airports in several Florida cities could have significant issues.
Delta has issued travel waivers for travel to, from and through numerous locations in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and the coastal U.S. from Florida to the Carolinas, according to the company.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Delta have also issued alerts, and have specified what cities and flights are covered for waivers or free-of-charge flight changes.
For other residents in the region, the impact boils down to the panic they feel for family situated in the coastal cities.
Christine Wade said her in-laws live in Polk County, Fla. She said the erratic forecast concerns her the most, and she said hoped her family prepared adequately.
“I’m in fear for them,” she said. “The satellite images, that’s what scares me the most. It made me sick.”
The Associated Press and John Genovese, a reporter for our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side, contributed to this report.