The massive storm that has flooded large parts of Louisiana this week doesn’t have a name, but it’s caught the attention of central Illinois’ emergency relief network.


“I think a lot of people don’t know how serious it is,” likely the nation’s worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy struck the east coast in 2012, said Trish Burnett, communications director for the American Red Cross Central Illinois Region.


It dispatched seven volunteers and driver teams with three emergency response vehicles to the Baton Rouge area after the storm, which began Thursday, dumped as much as two feet of rain along its wide path, Burnett said Tuesday.


“We’ll be sending quite a few more (volunteers) starting this week,” she said. “We have a lot eager to go. There’s a huge need down there.”


More than 20,000 people were rescued from their homes and at least 11,000 were staying in makeshift shelters, including movie theaters and arenas.


“Initial reports indicate responding to the disaster could cost more than $10 million,” said Lyn Hruska, director of the Red Cross’ Central and Southern Illinois regions.


To meet its share of that cost, the agency is asking for the public’s help.


Burnett said donations of $10 can be made by visiting its website at redcross.org, by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999.


Area volunteers would have been sent to Louisiana as the flood waters rose, she said, “but we held off out of concern for possible flooding in the southern tip of Illinois, where they also got a lot of rain in the last few days.”


With that threat diminished, the agency’s Central and Southern Illinois regions are sending all the resources they can to the area, which 11 years ago this month suffered one of the worst natural disasters on record in Hurricane Katrina.


That includes response vehicles and driver teams from Peoria, Moline and Quincy.


“They’re our connection to the neighborhoods,” Burnett said. “They’ll hand out food and water, and later cleaning supplies. They’ll be out looking for anyone in need.”


She noted the Red Cross is one of many civic and religious organizations that are working together to help Louisiana’s flood victims, including Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the NAACP, Islamic Relief USA and Save the Children.


Burnett said the Red Cross also will welcome help in the form of blood donations and offers to volunteer for other needs in the Peoria area.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin