San Diegans step up to help hurricane victims

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SAN DIEGO -- After two powerful hurricanes hit the United States back-to-back, the Red Cross started running out of pre-trained volunteers to deploy to Texas and Florida to help. Now, San Diego is stepping up.

As a Red Cross volunteer on the border of Louisana and Texas, Ron Smitter saw the devastation firsthand.

"A long line of tour buses bringing in people who had been rescued, many of which didn't have sandals or anything on their feet," Smitter said. "Some people just had all their possessions in a tin box."

For weeks straight he, along with more than 100 other San Diego-based Red Cross workers, have been sent or are on their way to help. They're all part of a 6,000-person Red Cross team currently on the ground, helping those affected by Hurricane Irma by passing out basic supplies like toothbrushes to helping victims find long-term shelters.

"A father who had a 2-year-old...two Red Cross members held that baby so he could sleep," Smitter said.

"It's unprecedented to have two major disasters like this back to back," said Emily Cox with the American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties. "Many of our volunteers have been there for two weeks and need to be refreshed and there's a huge need for more volunteers to be trained quickly."

Now, for the first time in recent history, the Red Cross is holding condensed versions of volunteer training sessions that normally last a few weeks. The organization has held three day-long sessions over the past three weeks.

Ninety-four people, eager to help, attended a session Tuesday night.

Sixteen people will deploy this week, followed by another 18.

"It's a humbling experience," Smitter said.

For information on the training sessions, click here.

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