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Grand Forks Red Cross volunteer helping in Colorado flood

Mason Hollifield was the director of the American Red Cross office in East Grand Forks during the 1997 flood. So, he knows about disasters. "This one is worse, much worse than ours," Hollifield said Monday from Colorado, where he is serving as a ...

Mason Hollifield

Mason Hollifield was the director of the American Red Cross office in East Grand Forks during the 1997 flood. So, he knows about disasters.

"This one is worse, much worse than ours," Hollifield said Monday from Colorado, where he is serving as a volunteer.

"There's flash flooding, very strong currents, houses just disappearing," he said. "We're trying to get our hands around it so we can plan what to do. But it's still occurring and things change every five minutes."

And, with hundreds of people missing and the flash flooding happening in remote areas, officials are unsure of the extent of the damage or the needs.

"We don't know if a lot of people are in trouble or have gone somewhere safe," he said.

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Hollifield, who lives in Grand Forks, retired in 2004 after 20 years as the executive head of the Red River Valley Chapter of the Red Cross. Since retiring, however, he has routinely volunteered at disasters nationwide. His travels to volunteer on average about twice a year, including four trips to Louisiana to help after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

"It gets in your blood," said Hollifield. "It's very, very rewarding. I enjoy the work."

Because of his leadership experience, he typically works as an administrator at disaster sites. "They're sending me up to Fort Collins (Colo.) to set up a headquarters," Hollifield said.

Hollifield said a standard volunteer stint is three weeks, but he believes the need for help will last longer than normal.

"It's done nothing but rain since I got here (on Saturday) and they say there's at least two more days of rain coming," he said. "Many roads are underwater and a tremendous number of bridges are out."

Hollifield said he is one of about 200 Red Cross volunteers from outside of Colorado. "And we'll be getting more," he said. "It's going to be a messy job."

Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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