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Local organizations watching Elsa closely as storm nears Fla. landfall

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 10:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As Tropical Storm Elsa approaches landfall along Florida’s west coast, there are many watching what happens in the Carolinas.

Curtis Drafton has seen mother nature’s wrath.

The Charlotte Army veteran is serving our country in a different way as the founder of the US Veterans Hall of Fame.

“With the Veterans Hall of Fame, one way we can magically do this is to show up at a storm where other people don’t have the training. Granted in the military, we aren’t trained to exactly rescue in a storm, we are trained to overcome any obstacle and get the mission complete,” Drafton said.

With other veterans part of the non-profit, Drafton has nearly nine years of rescue and relief efforts, ranging from Texas, to the Gulf Coast and down the Eastern Seaboard.

In his recovery and relief efforts to Louisiana and Florida last year, WBTV talked with him along the journey.

But usually, he’s there before the storm hits.

As Elsa nears landfall Wednesday morning, this time will be different.

“Our trailer was stolen, winds were about 75 miles per hour, it flipped over on a highway out near Pensacola, Florida. Unfortunately, vandals took over and stole our rescue gear,” Drafton said, referring to the 2020 incident.

Now, instead of being in the thick of it all with rescue missions, he’s standing by waiting to see if Elsa turns for the worst and if they’ll be needed in relief efforts.

“Our next 24 hours are going to be highly anticipatory. What we’re doing is sitting back and really trying to see if the gauge from the National Weather Service is matching what’s on the ground,” Drafton said.

Once on the ground, Drafton said it’s all about helping those in need.

“The first thing we look at is shelter, next thing we look at is clothing and then food. A lot of times the Red Cross, Salvation Army help out in that part, but then we have other corporate partners who come to us and we partner with them,” he said.

Across the Carolinas, there are others also watching Elsa including Duke Energy and the Red Cross.

In a statement, the Red Cross says, “we are standing by to send volunteers to any areas expected to see impacts from Elsa.”

Duke Energy says they’re also monitoring conditions locally and, “With storm-related outages expected to be more severe in Duke Energy’s Florida service, the company has also released 400 Carolinas-based contract line and other support workers to support restoration efforts there.”

Full statement from Duke Energy:

“Duke Energy’s meteorologists are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Elsa and its potential impacts on our Carolinas service territory. Currently, our models indicate the greatest potential for storm-related outages east of I-95, particularly coastal communities.

We maintain a detailed storm response plan, and we have line technicians, service crews and other personnel available to respond in those communities where storm-related outages are mostly likely to occur; and additional workers are prepared to travel from other locations across the Carolinas to support restoration work, if needed.

With storm-related outages expected to be more severe in Duke Energy’s Florida service, the company has also released 400 Carolinas-based contract line and other support workers to support restoration efforts there.”

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