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Local recovery workers narrow focus toward New York, New Jersey after Sandy

Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 6:07 am

About 275 utility workers from Indiana Michigan Power Co.'s territory are still at work in areas heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, the utility reports.

Meanwhile, the first American Red Cross of Northeast Indiana volunteers who went east to help are coming home soon, but more than two dozen other volunteers remain in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia.

For both the utility and the disaster-relief agency, the focus has narrowed to New York and New Jersey in the nearly two weeks since Sandy struck.

“It's been challenging,” said Katherine MacAulay, chief operating officer of the area Red Cross chapter. The lesser – but still strong – storm that struck this week set back operations for volunteers there, she said. They're now back distributing supplies, staffing shelters, feeding people and, in one case, supervising a warehouse from which emergency supplies are distributed.

Two volunteers who were “pre-staged” the weekend before Sandy hit will return to northeast Indiana Saturday, MacAulay said, but other volunteers are likely to travel there soon. As of Friday, 29 volunteers from this area were in the field: one each in Maryland and West Virginia, the remainder divided between New Jersey and New York, she said.

David Mayne, a spokesman for I&M, said that as of Friday morning, nearly 500,000 customers are still without power, out of about 8.7 million people who've lost power in storms during the last two weeks. Most of the crews are in New York and New Jersey, but a smaller number are still at work in West Virginia as well.

“Access to hotel accommodations has been a challenge but as more power is restored to the area, rooms are becoming more available,” he said Friday. “For the past week or so, crews were staying in a tent city, sleeping on cots. That was the situation when the Nor'easter went through earlier this week.”

Mayne said some support personnel from Indiana may be coming home over the next couple of days, but it's uncertain when the bulk of workers restoring power will be sent home by the East Coast utilities they're working for.