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Iron Range couple helps with Dorian relief in North Carolina

RALEIGH, NC– Dorian has closed in on the Carolinas bringing wind, heavy rains, and major flooding concerns.

Tens of thousands are without power and the storm is still making its way up the coast. Now, volunteers are being asked to help with relief, including many here in the Northland.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday during a press conference,  “Hurricane Dorian’s power has arrived in North Carolina, with wind, rain, and tornados lashing our state. We’re feeling the storm’s force, but it has only started.”

Volunteers are prepping for the worst. “It’s just been that before the disaster hits kind of stuff,” says Gina Rittgers.

Gina and her husband Jeff live in Mountain Iron, Minnesota but just arrived in Raleigh after being sent by the Red Cross to help with Dorian relief.

Gina says, “You get your deployment orders, you get there, and things change quickly sometimes.”

The couple was unable to make it to the coastal city, Wilmington due to worsening weather conditions.

Gina says the highways are closed down. “We aren’t allowed to travel on the highways if the wind is more than 35 miles per hour.”

Though the couple isn’t in an area expected to be hard hit, evacuations will force people inland where teams have been setting up shelters. The two took time today to set up cots, tables, and chairs at shelters for Red Cross staff and those impacted by the storm.

“High winds and the storm surge is what’s creating a lot of problems,” says Jeff.

In Raleigh, they are experiencing heavy rain and wind, but nothing compared to the coast.

This is their first deployment but the Rittgers have been involved with the Red Cross in Northern Minnesota for over a year.  Gina and Jeff are part of the Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team (DAT) and typically respond to families impacted by fires on the Iron Range.

“We said to each other, that’s something we can do in our retirement to help people in need.”

As Dorian continues to batter the coast, the couple hopes to help as many people as possible. Jeff says, “they’re all so thankful for the response and it’s a great experience.”

The Rittgers will remain in North Carolina for 2 weeks.

Thursday Gov.Tim Walz authorized travel of 15 ambulances and 36 first responders to North Carolina as that state prepares for the intensifying storm.

Jessie Slater

Weekend Anchor and Multimedia Journalist

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