As Hurricane Irene draws closer to New York shores, American Red Cross workers nationwide are deploying to aid Easterners from sheltering to feeding and cleanup.

Plains-based Montana Red Cross volunteer Robert “Bob” Heckman will be the first volunteer deployment from Montana.

Forecast to slam New York on Monday, the Category 2 hurricane today prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to order a Saturday morning shut-down of all public transportation.

Heckman, who earlier this year deployed to the South to aid in storm mitigation, says he will leave early Saturday from Missoula International Airport with just enough time to reach Manhattan before transportation closures take effect.

More local volunteers are likely to follow, post-landfall.

Potential affected areas cover a huge geography, according to the American Red Cross, with residents of several states probably requiring aid for weeks – perhaps months – if the storm plays out as weather officials expect.

Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are already mobilizing supplies from North Carolina to New England, with more than 200 emergency response vehicles – about two-thirds of the national Red Cross fleet – assigned to states expected to be affected by Irene.

The Red Cross is preparing to respond to Hurricane Irene all along the Eastern seaboard, but Heckman will be serving residents of the Big Apple through a supply warehouse located on the island.

Closures of subways, and commuter railroads, such as New Jersey PATH trains and New York’s Long Island Railroad, will make Red Cross presence ever vital.

Montana chapter disaster chief Colleen Tone says she is being prudent with deployments at this time, to keep enough volunteers in reserve statewide to aid Montanans in wildfire mass care.