HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) - As thousands of Gulf Coast residents fled their homes on Sunday in advance of Tropical Storm Isaac, local volunteers prepared to go to the storm's front lines for a potentially massive relief effort.
Prepare And Respond, better known as "PAR", began coordinating their Isaac gameplan over the weekend. PAR is a network of more than a dozen Madison County churches who have disaster relief trailers that are pre-stocked and ready to roll on a moment's notice.
Isaac was anticipated to turn into a hurricane later this week, which would make it the first hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast in four years.
Check Isaac's latest path in our Hurricane Tracker on WHNT.com.
PAR leaders said they kept an eye on Isaac's progress throughout the weekend, and have already loaded trailers with supplies like tarps, chainsaws and gasoline cans. PAR coordinator Greg Nelson told WHNT News 19 that the trailers would not leave north Alabama until after Isaac makes landfall in order to keep volunteers safe.
"We're just trying to pull everybody together and get everybody set and ready to go," said Nelson, who was inspecting a PAR storehouse in Madison. "We're getting all of our trailers rigged up, if they're not yet. Most of them are ready to go now... We're not going to go down there and just be heroes and do our own thing. We'll do it in order, and we'll go where we're needed."
Nelson said PAR had 11 trailers scattered throughout Madison County, but it's not yet known how many would head to the Gulf Coast. The group's final destination will be determined later this week based on the needs of local authorities.
PAR teams responded to a deadly tornado in Birmingham earlier this year, as well as a freak thunderstorm that crippled parts of the Mid-Atlantic region for days due to widespread power outages. Nelson said those assignments have prepared PAR squads for the aftermath of a hurricane, which often requires physical and spiritual support.
"These trailers, when they pull up, it gives people hope," said Nelson. "They appreciate people coming from somewhere, even if they don't know where from... It's on the job training every time we go to an event."
The faith-based relief network was formed after the deadly tornado outbreak in April 2011. Fourteen area churches are part of the PAR coalition, including Willowbrook Baptist, The Dwelling Place, The Rock Family Worship Center, Building Church, Harvest Baptist Church, and Twickenham Church of Christ.
PAR officials said they welcome donations from the public to help assist recovery efforts. For more information on PAR, you can visit their website at http://www.parforthecause.net/