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Area Red Cross deployed to Hurricane Earl

ALBANY, Ga. -- A hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean that was expected to threaten the United States' Eastern Seaboard has resulted in American Red Cross chapters throughout the country mobilizing, including the one in Southwest Georgia.

The Emergency Response Vehicle based at the Flint River chapter of the American Red Cross is one of the 11 in Georgia that has been deployed to assist with disaster relief efforts in anticipation of Hurricane Earl.

"You can't wait until the storm comes ashore," explained Mari Wright, philanthropy director with the chapter. "The Red Cross is there, and we are prepared."

The organization is on the ground from the Carolinas to New England.

The Category 3 storm was expected to bear down on the U.S. late Thursday or early today.

The vehicle based in Albany left just before 9 a.m. Thursday to go to Atlanta, at which point representatives from the Red Cross national headquarters were to take it the rest of the way.

"A volunteer team will take it to North Carolina to use if it is needed," Wright said.

At present, there are 14 shelters available along the North Carolina coast with 80 others on standby. Emergency planning for the hurricane is taking place as far north as Maine.

"We are making preparations for Earl's landfall, and we urge everyone who may be in the path of the storm to also get prepared and follow the instructions of local authorities about evacuating," said Joe Becker, senior vice president of American Red Cross Disaster Services, in a statement earlier this week. "Indications are that the storm will affect those who are miles inland from the coast. Being ready is your best protection against a storm like this."

The ERVs are self-contained and typically carry food and beverages to those providing disaster relief. They are operated by a two-person team.

Earl was packing 125 mph winds as it blew toward the coast Thursday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center in Miami was predicting the eye of the storm would likely remain about 30 to 75 miles east of the Outer Banks. At the closest point of approach, the western edge of the eye wall could impact Cape Hatteras.

Earl obtained Category 4 status Thursday before being downgraded back to a Category 3.

To make a financial donation to help people impacted by Earl, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word "REDCROSS" to 90999.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report