Oklahoma American Red Cross volunteer shares experiences assisting Hurricane Harvey victims

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma man volunteering with the American Red Cross in Texas says he will be deployed an additional two weeks to assist Texans as they continue to assess the damage created in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

News 4 spoke with Steve Klapp by phone Monday as he prepared to leave Austin where he's been based for the last week working in disaster assistance. We first spoke with Klapp before he flew to Houston on August 25.

“I could not get out…basically we were an island as water was four feet deep all around the area that our headquarters was," Klapp said. "But we could get to the Houston (George R. Brown) convention center."

Klapp says he spent four days in Houston -- two of which he served as the night shelter manager for the convention center.

"People just kept coming and coming and coming," he said, with the center eventually holding 10,000 people. "They would come with their plastic bags full of what they had and we'd get them a cot, warm place to sleep, blankets, fed and areas for their families."

Klapp, who has volunteered with the Red Cross during other hurricanes, says most people seemed to be doing well during his time in Houston.

"For the most part, they were doing very well, but I don’t think it really -- the full magnitude -- had completely hit them at that point. But people knew what they had left at home, they wouldn’t have a home.”

Klapp eventually moved north to Austin where he worked with evacuees and those whose homes had sustained damage in the storm and subsequent floods.

“Maybe 350 homes in my territory were destroyed, which is a small number compared to the hundreds of thousands we’re expecting -- maybe 140,000 -- to be destroyed in the Houston and Beaumont area.”

"I think that we’ve learned a lot from the past mega disasters and hurricanes that we’ve had, and we’ve learned from those experiences and applied what we’ve learned.”

Something Klapp says could be employed if Hurricane Irma, currently in the Atlantic, turns northward to the southeastern United States. In the meantime, he staying for two more weeks working in operations management and keeping an eye on Irma.

"I’ll be waiting for a call because we have a lot of resources that are used up here and  we’ve already pulled a lot of management teams out of here to get them established over in the southeastern United States for Irma. We’re ready for her.”

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