MARINETTE – New York City and Marinette, Wis., are 1,100 miles apart but what’s happening with Hurricane Sandy out there is having an impact on people and decisions being made here in northeast Wisconsin. The American Red Cross in Northeast Wisconsin has already shifted into gear. Two volunteers from the region, Kathy Brockman of Kaukauna and Barbara Behling of Madison, are in position to help. Brockman is working at a shelter in the New York area and Behling is assisting with public affairs in Washington, D.C.
“Right now we are under a travel restriction,” said local Red Cross spokeswoman Jody Weyers. “We’re waiting for ‘Sandy’ to actually make landfall so we can assess what the damage is and then deploy people according to the needs and where the needs are.” Weyers said calls are also being made to registered disaster volunteers to find out who is available to head out for a two to three week assignment. Once the travel restriction is lifted and damage assessments are made, the deployment process will begin again.
At 8:30 this morning, Ginny Gibson of Iron Mountain, Mich., and Donna LaPlante of Little Suamico will leave Green Bay for New York State in the Emergency Response Vehicle. As of Monday afternoon sustained winds in New York had reached 90 mph and are expected to go even higher as the storm pushes its way up the coast.
“It sounds like it’s going to be the height of the storm when we get there,” said Gibson. “I’m a little apprehensive, sometimes you just don’t know what to expect. There’s a little anticipation going on.”Apprehension and anticipation, yes. But not enough to back away from someone in need. Gibson has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2005 and has answered the call to some of the most powerful and destructive storms in modern history.
“The biggest storm was Katrina,” she recalled. “But I’ve always said that when your house is flooded, it’s big, it impacts you directly. It doesn’t matter if 100 miles of homes get hit, it impacts each person.” Gibson also went to Texas to help victims of Hurricane Isaac. Then in August and September she traveled to Louisiana to assist in Red Cross operations for people there who were displaced by the hurricane. “It seems like every time I’ve gone it’s a little bit different,” she said. “Not being from that area you don’t know what you’re going to find or how it’s impacted that area.”
Gibson and LaPlante will report to Middletown, New York, about 75 miles north of New York City. They won’t know exactly what they’ll be doing until they report in at the Green Bay office. However, the vehicle they’re driving is designed to distribute meals ready to eat and to deliver hot meals to storm victims or to shelters. The vehicle is also used to deliver cleaning supplies and clean up kits.
Historically, Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) has assisted other parts of the country in restoring power after major outages; however WPS has no plans to assist with Hurricane Sandy. Instead, WPS has released its contractor crews, including tree trimmers, to allow them to assist in the hurricane aftermath.
“The reason why we’re not sending our crews is because we’re anticipating a lot of high winds in our area,” said WPS spokeswoman Jenny Short. A WPS forecast projected wind speeds of 30 to 50 mph winds beginning late Monday night. WPS said with winds that strong, it’s likely there could be downed lines from broken poles, trees and branches.
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