As Tropical Storm Ernesto churns toward Florida, dozens of Iowans are responding to the American Red Cross’ call for help. Marty Robey works as a plumber in Des Moines but volunteers as a photographer for the website “” which sent him to central Florida to document damage wherever the big storm comes ashore.

Robey says “People are getting ready. Here in Orlando, it’s not quite as obvious, but we see people are plywooding up the windows, getting gas, getting propane. Florida’s really pretty good about taking care of business when it comes to hurricanes.”

Many other Iowans are already headed for the Gulf Coast or they’re on standby to see where they’ll be needed by the Red Cross to help provide food, shelter, health and mental health services. Robey says “We’re doing preparedness messaging right now, making sure everybody is getting ready and getting their emergency kits together and getting their out-of-state contacts together so if anybody’s separated, they can get together after the fact, pretty much taking care of loose ends until Ernesto knocks on the door.”

Robey also spent three weeks in Louisiana last year, shooting photos for the agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Robey says “I saw a lot of destruction but really the sadness was present but the people were very, very upbeat. They were a very resilent people and they were ready to move on with their lives and get things going again.”

Robey says his appreciation for the Red Cross was cemented by watching the response when his grandmother’s home in Stratford was hit by a tornado last year.