Tropical Storm Karen crawled toward the Gulf Coast on Saturday, weakening, but still posing a threat of flooding to low lying areas, forecasters said.
Back in State College, on an unseasonably warm autumn day when thoughts of flooding were scarce, Romayne Naylor had already put out the call for help. Just as she always does.
And Naylor knew her team of dedicated American Red Cross volunteers would answer, just as they always do.
Our volunteers in this chapter are considered some of the best in the country, said the local Red Cross emergency services director. They are some of the most dedicated disaster volunteers in the country and some of the most experienced.
Some of Naylors volunteers have responded to as many as 20 national operations since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 from wildfires to floods, tornadoes to hurricanes.
When Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast last year, two locals spent two weekends managing 1,500 people who came forward in the New York-New Jersey area with no training but a desire to help.
The call for Tropical Storm Karen may not be as urgent, but its significant for another reason.
It might be the last time its Naylor picking up the phone.
Her position of emergency services director is being eliminated by the Red Cross here and in other locations across the country.
Kathy Smyser, regional communications manager for the Red Cross in central Pennsylvania, said the organization is re-engineering the way it responds to disasters and is undergoing an internal restructuring of staff as a result.
The Red Cross has always been great at responding to disasters, Smyser said. But there is a whole lot more we can do preparing communities for disasters and in long-term recovery. Its not how our current structure is set up.
A new position for the region is being created to help achieve those goals, but it means the Red Cross has to shift resources, relying on volunteers to do more of what Naylor has done.
Smyser said an existing position in Altoona will now oversee volunteers here and a new job will be created in the region, possibly based out of Williamsport, to help focus on planning and long-term recovery.
Volunteers themselves may be asked to take on more of a leadership role.
The State College office will remain open after the transition, and Smyser said she believes its volunteers will be able to provide the same levels of assistance to people dealing with emergencies and disasters both locally and elsewhere.
Well, 96 percent of our workforce now is volunteers, she said. In a large disaster, they pretty much run the show. I hate to say they dont need us, but in some ways they dont.
Theyve got the background, the expertise, especially in the Centre Region, Smyser said. They are phenomenal.
Count Naylor among those who believe the regions volunteers are up for any task.
Its not about (me) being here to lead, Naylor said. Its about (me) leaving them prepared to lead themselves. The bottom line is they stand ready to lead our community whether Im at the helm or not.
Naylor said she is still discussing opportunities with the Red Cross and with her family. Its too soon, she said, to determine her immediate future plans.
Those in local aid agencies that work closely with Naylor and the Red Cross say her presence will be sorely missed.
She is ultimately concerned, and her commitment remains with victims in all of the responses, said Natalie Corman, director of the countys Office of Adult Services. She is quick to jump to the needs victims might have. She is concerned children have toys if they lost that.
Corman called Naylor an outstanding coordinator, whose connections in the community help make quick responses and teamwork between agencies a reality.
Its amazing that she knows exactly who to go to depending on the need and crisis, Corman said.
In her eight years on the job, Naylor has been deployed 11 times, responding to wildfires in California, tornadoes in Georgia and flooding in eastern Pennsylvania.
She served as a government liaison traveling between the capitals of Minnesota and Wisconsin when flooding hit the Midwest, and as the entire external relationships department of a small operation for flooding in Rhode Island.
Locally, she has helped make a difference in the lives of many who have just had theirs turned upside down by fires or other disasters.
When Im on the job, nobody sees my face, she said. They never see my shadow. They dont know Im there.
It doesnt matter, she continued. At the end of an exhausting day when I roll into bed, I have this feeling of satisfaction because I know Ive done something to make their day better.
Its the honest truth, Naylor said. Its either in your blood or its not. I thrive on it.
Naylor helped guide victims though two recent local tragedies, fires at the Hotel Do De in Bellefonte and the Waupelani Heights apartment complex in State College.
Romayne is not replaceable, said Annette Ratliff, a program coordinator at Housing Transitions, an organization that worked closely with Naylor and others to help Waupelani Heights residents pick up the pieces after the July 4 blaze.
Im sure they will have a way for folks to get the help that they need, Ratliff said. But she will be missed. She is an asset to the community.
Just dont expect that last part to change.
Regardless of what Naylor decides is in her future, it isnt likely her drive to help others will be quieted.
My position will change, she said. But my dedication is still there.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.