Four local Red Cross volunteers returned home Thursday to rest after three weeks of helping victims of Gustav and Ike in hurricane-ravaged Texas.

Four local Red Cross volunteers returned home Thursday to rest after three weeks of helping victims of Gustav and Ike in hurricane-ravaged Texas.

Nine members of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross arrived in Houston in late August to help residents fleeing Gustav, which hit the Louisiana coast on Sept. 1, and then Ike, which struck the Houston/Galveston areas Sept. 13.

Five volunteers have returned. Four others have committed to another three-week stint and should return in early October, Red Cross spokeswoman Teresa Stover said.

Michael and Katherine Nabielski of Ashland arrived home at noon Thursday. They worked in staff support and work-force planning, organizing and greeting volunteers that arrived in Dallas. The Nabielskis have been on at least five Red Cross disaster services trips, remaining undeterred by the intense workload.

"It's a 12-hour day. It's very, very exhausting," Katherine Nabielski said. "You get home, you sit, you sleep and you get up in the morning."

The three-week term left no time for breaks, and the Nabielskis had only two days off: one when Red Cross headquarters in Dallas closed and the other when Ike hit the Gulf Coast. In most cases, volunteers get one day off, Stover said.

The Red Cross has served more than half a million meals in Texas as a result of the two hurricanes and is operating 109 shelters in the state, according to a press release from the organization. Wednesday night, shelters in Texas housed more than 11,000 people.

Volunteer Phil Gonzales was to return home to Medford late Thursday night. He spent time working as a kitchen manager, moving between four Red Cross kitchens whenever needed.

"The people here are so appreciative," Gonzales said. "If you wear your Red Cross stuff, everyone says thank you."

Gonzales' travels between shelters exposed him to the destruction caused by the duo of storms. Gonzales said houses and parts of the highway were still submerged in water, and parts of Houston were still without power, leaving many traffic signals malfunctioning.

The work is grueling, but helping people keeps Grants Pass volunteer Bill Bradley going. Bradley agreed to another three-week stint doing shelter work at Houston's John R. Brown Convention Center.

"I'm 65 years old and found out I can run a mile in 9 minutes (Wednesday). My doc's gonna be glad to hear this," he said.

Bradley has been working with those who have not returned to their homes on Galveston Island because of a government request for residents to wait another week for officials to make repairs.

"Most of them have lost everything, and I'm simply trying to make their lives a little more comfortable," Bradley said.

Reach reporting intern Stacey Barchenger at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.