PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Teams from Portsmouth-based nonprofit Mercy Chefs are on the road to Louisiana.
The nonprofit is getting ready to help with disaster relief by serving hot meals once Hurricane Laura passes.
Founder Gary LeBlanc is stationed in New Orleans, about three hours east from where the storm will make landfall. He and the rest of his crew will move toward the Louisiana border on Friday morning.
LeBlanc tells 10 On Your Side this relief effort is a bit more personal this time. He has family in the storm’s path.
Since Sunday, Mercy Chefs has been in Louisiana staging equipment ahead of the storm.
Another team left Hampton Roads Wednesday morning.
“We have our command post, one of our smoker trailers here. The other trailers come in tomorrow,” he said. “We also have another kitchen team coming down from Oklahoma.”
LeBlanc said the response teams will drive into the hardest-hit areas once the storm has moved out.
The National Hurricane Center calls the expected storm surge “unsurvivable.”
“I don’t know if folks realize what 15 to 20 feet of storm surge looks like,” LeBlanc said. “It is gonna be a drastic, drastic situation for the part of the coastline of Louisiana that’s gonna take the head-on punch of this storm.”
LeBlanc started Mercy Chefs after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown. Like so many others, he’s bracing for what Hurricane Laura will bring.
His family could be severely affected.
“My DNA is in the land that’s going to get flooded and torn apart here in the next few days,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a very eerie feeling. It’s very emotional for me.”
Still, the nonprofit is staying focused on fueling first responders and anyone else in need of a meal.
“We’re going to try to be on the ground, serving food within 24 hours of landfall so we can take care of those heroes as we prepare to serve the victims and volunteers that are sure to follow,” he said.
Mercy Chefs is making sure COVID-19 doesn’t get in the way of its mission of serving a hot meal to disaster victims. Staff and volunteers will be wearing gloves and masks and a “touchless delivery” process will also be in place.
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