Denise Everhart wears many hats: a wife, a Molalla volunteer firefighter and a division disaster executive for the American Red Cross. But right now she's at the center of Harvey relief efforts in Houston, Texas.
Everhart flew to Houston on Aug. 27 to lend her hands in the aftermath of Tropical Depression Harvey, which has devastated the states of Texas and Louisiana with more than 50 inches of rain in some areas.
"The damage is so great," Everhart said. "Just trying to get here, everywhere you went, there were neighborhoods where the water was up to rooflines, and you couldn't get down any roads. It was just a truly horrific disaster."
Everhart originally went to serve as a utility player for the Red Cross, but quickly became the Mass Care Chief in charge of sheltering, feeding and the distribution of emergency supplies for the entire state of Texas.
She described Harvey as being bigger than Hurricane Sandy, which peaked as a category 2 hurricane and wreaked havoc along the southeast Florida coast in October 2012. She also compared Harvey to Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 hurricane that the National Weather Service deemed "the costliest hurricane to ever hit the United States."
"So many people lost everything they own."
"Emotionally, this is so hard," Everhart said. "So many people lost everything they own. A lot of times, in flooding, you can go back in and clean things out and return home. But we're seeing such a great extent of flooding. It's 50 inches of rain. Everything is gone."
She continued, "It's heartbreaking. Just imagine your home filling to the eaves with water. Everything is gone."
Despite the devastation, Everhart said that people's spirits are better than would be expected, and that even those impacted have stepped up to volunteer for the Red Cross in Texas.
"Americans are at their best during a disaster," Everhart said. "There's such a desire to help other people. I think that's why we've gotten so many volunteers while we've been here. People who were affected even are volunteering to help with the Red Cross. It really touches your heart. You see the best in people."
Everhart doesn't yet know when she'll be able to return home. Depending on the path and impact of Hurricane Irma, Everhart may need to take part in those relief efforts as well.
In addition to their work in the areas affected by Harvey, The American Red Cross also has teams responding to the Oregon wildfires, including the Eagle Creek fire that's currently ablaze in the Columbia River Gorge. She wants to encourage people to help in any way possible.
"What I would like for people to know is, even from Molalla, or even from Oregon, you can help," Everhart said. She continued, "There's a huge blood shortage. We need more volunteers. And we run entirely on donations. So donate. Donate your blood. Donate your time. Donate your hard-earned cash. Help us help all these people that are affected by disaster."
To donate to the American Red Cross, visit redcross.org