RVA organizations head to Panhandle as Hurricane Michael closes in

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Hurricane Michael, a powerful category four storm,  barreled toward the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, local organizations headed into the storm to help those in impacted areas.

With a storm surge that could hit 13 feet, Michael could blow ashore as the strongest in the nation this year.

"It is progressively starting to come down a little harder now," Red Cross Communications Director Jonathan McNamara said.

He flew into Tallahassee yesterday as part of a team of 500 disaster workers on the ground across the state of Florida, working to provide shelters for people who have evacuated from evacuation zones.

Johnathan McNamara, spokesperson for the Richmond American Red Cross.

Johnathan McNamara, spokesperson for the Richmond American Red Cross.

"We had roughly 4,000 people spend the night in a Red Cross or partner shelters -- we expect that number could rise but now we’re just urging people to listen to the local officials -- heed those warnings because this is a very, very dangerous storm.”

McNamara said their are more than 100 volunteers at the Tallahassee headquarters -- some based in Florida-- others from across the country, all working to help. And they aren't the only ones.

The Virginia Task Force 2 announced in a Facebook post that they have deployed a Mission Ready Package for Water Rescue (MRP-W) equipped with 16 personnel, several trucks, and boats. The task force also said they deployed eight members with the East Coast IST Cache and four members to serve on the Incident Support Team.

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McNamara said this is just the beginning.

"Next phase of recovery work -- going into neighborhoods -- providing for the needs of those impacted by the storm, providing resources for people. If it hits as a Category 4 we could see catastrophic damage," he said.

McNamara is urging those who can still leave to do so.

"If there’s others that are still in those areas or maybe people in Richmond that have loved ones that are in those areas and can still get out safely -- we urge them to do so because it’s not worth risking your life," he said.