SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego woman is among the Red Cross volunteers helping Hawaiians who have been forced from their home by the Kilauea volcano.
Amy Laurel Hegy has been a Red Cross volunteer for years, helping with disasters including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, the Sonoma fires and, most recently, the Lilac Fire. Now, she is one of over 100 Red Cross volunteers on the ground on the Big Island and says the dangers caused by the volcano are unlike any other natural disasters she’s ever responded to.
The Red Cross has been on the ground, since May 4, providing shelter and comfort to those impacted. Activity increased at the Kilauea volcano over the weekend, with three new fissures opening up spewing lava and toxic gas. The gas plumes are forcing more people from their homes as more neighborhoods are impacted.
Hegy has been on the Big Island since May 11. She talked to FOX 5 on Facetime Tuesday about how the situation worsened over the weekend.
“There was a plume that went up today that the winds are moving ash -- not necessarily sulfur dioxide -- our way," Hegy said. "The emergency management people have determined in looking at all of the places that the evacuation centers that we are located in are an ideal place for any eventuality that may occur. And that is a very comforting thought to know."
Since operations began, the Red Cross has provided more than 2,100 overnight stays for residents of Puna in two shelters.
Hegy is one of 120 volunteers, and one of four from San Diego. She’s not new to emergency response but says this disaster is different.
“Wildfires blow through. Tornadoes are gone in an instant. Hurricanes you see coming and you know that they will go. This, however, could be the new normal in some way, so it creates problems for people from that standpoint,” Hegy said.
Hegy says the Red Cross is doing all it can to help those affected by Kilauea.
"The Red Cross was there for me, and I’m going to be there for other people,” said Hegy. "So we’re working with our community partners, our governmental partners -- all of that -- to make certain that the people who are in our care or will eventually be in our care have a solid good roof, good caring people, good food in their belly and good access to any type of medical care they may need."
The lava continues to inch toward a main highway in lower Puna, potentially forcing 2,000 more residents to flee, joining the 1,800 already evacuated and now in shelters.
The toxic gas is now posing some more dangerous breathing issues. Hegy says they are working with the emergency management officials and federal groups to ensure emergency evacuation plans are in place.