TERRE HAUTE -- Hurricane Irene, the first of 2011, is pounding the Caribbean with heavy rain and winds.
Irene is expected to gain strength as the week moves forward, threatening Florida and the southeast states as early as Thursday.
The American Red Cross has opened shelters and is working closely with government partners in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to coordinate any relief services that may be needed.
The Red Cross has warehouses on the islands equipped with thousands of cots, blankets, kerosene lanterns and comfort and cleanup supplies.
As part of the preparation efforts, the Wabash Valley Chapter Emergency Response vehicle is on standby.
"This means that we have completed our vehicle checklist to ensure that it is staffed, stocked, clean, fueled and ready to deploy on assignment should it be called to do so," Wabash Valley Chapter Executive Director Carol Stevens said.
Red Cross officials are preparing to respond along the East Coast if needed. Trained disaster relief workers are on alert, along with Red Cross mobile feeding vehicles and trucks equipped with communications technology.