Locals step up to face challenges left in Sandy’s wake

Girl Scouts doing jacket drive this weekend
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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From American Red Cross volunteers to electrical workers to Girl Scouts, members of Auburn area communities have joined in as the nation rallies behind those affected by Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast.

A woman from Cool and another volunteer from Lincoln are working in shelters, helping provide comforts to those displaced or otherwise in need of food, hot water or a warm place to stay.

Pacific Gas & Electric dispatched hundreds to help restore power, and their Eastern convoy includes a worker from Auburn and another from Grass Valley.

Back in Auburn, the Girl Scouts are taking action with a warm jacket drive with the goal of getting 200 coats to victims of the storm.

Cold days are ahead for them, too.

A week after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast, residents were bracing for yet another potentially damaging storm that forecasters expect to bring winds of up to 55 mph, coastal flooding, up to 2 inches of rain along the shore and several inches of snow to Pennsylvania and New York, according to the Associated Press.

Tami Martin of Cool has been there for the duration.

Having flown into New York two days before Sandy hit, Martin has been there before, during and after the storm – and she said her part in the recovery effort is likely to be more of a challenge now than the actual night when Sandy breached the shoreline.

On Friday, as she waited in a long line at the gas station, she told the Journal of her experiences in New York, starting in Middleburgh, then to Loche Sheldrake and then, she expected, to New York City.

She had time to talk, too. A rush on gas created a flurry of activity at the pump with some people taking extreme measures, such as the couple who improperly filled a 25-gallon barrel after fueling their vehicle, Martin said.

Transportation itself has proven to be a big challenge, she said.

“Traffic is a nightmare,” Martin said, adding that the difficult mechanics of navigating blocked city streets has presented a large obstacle in this recovery effort.

Martin initially helped staff a shelter in Middleburgh, but the town avoided flooding that plagued it during Hurricane Irene, so she was sent to the small town of Loche Sheldrake, where the shelter averaged about 50 overnight guests and 70 to 80 during mealtimes, she said.

Downed trees and power lines presented the biggest problem there, and some people sought refuge at the shelter because their powerless homes were too cold, she said.

“We even had some people who were staying in their homes, but because they had no hot water, they would come shower and go back home, go to work,” Martin said.

Emergency response vehicles that bring the shelter food had difficulty reaching it at times and a local restaurant stepped up to fill the void, she said.  An Italian eatery sent pasta, salad and bread for no charge to feed those at the shelter, Martin said.

Power had been scheduled to return to that area Sunday, so people could return to their homes, she said. She then expected to be on her way to address the big problems of the big city.

“I’ve never really been to New York City. I’ve been to an airport, passing through or flying over,” Martin said. “This is going to be my first vision of New York and the other areas, and it’s going to be sad, simply from what I’m hearing on the news, but once we get into our shelter, that’s our little world.”

On Friday, she said she would be helping recovery efforts for at least two more weeks.

It’s always somewhat surreal when she returns home, Martin said.

“It’s one thing to see it on the news day after day,” she said. “But to stand in the middle of it and see the mass amount of lives being changed and lost, I go home and see my house still standing and my stuff – which I have too much of – is still there, it’s overwhelming to process.”

Martin is one of 61 volunteers dispatched by the American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter based in Sacramento, said chapter CEO Dawn Lindblom. A woman from Lincoln also joined the Red Cross volunteer contingent late last week, Lindblom said.

More than 5,300 Red Cross workers from across the country have been helping the storm response, and Sunday night more than 9,000 people stayed in 113 shelters from Red Cross and other organizations, she said.

“The main thing with the storm coming in is that right now they’ve been working on sending blankets and making sure there are things to take care of these folks when the storm comes in,” Lindblom said.

A nor'easter taking shape Monday in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to begin its march up the coast, eventually passing within 50 to 100 miles of the wounded New Jersey coastline on Wednesday, forecasters told the AP.

More than 250 PG&E workers have been dispatched to the East Coast, including at least two from the Auburn area, said Brittany McKannay, PG&E spokesperson.

And about 50 Girl Scouts troops in the Auburn area are working to collect as many warm jackets as they can with the goal of sending 100 apiece to New York and New Jersey, said Kate Beall, co-leader for Troop 1600 in Auburn.

They will be collecting the jackets at the end of the Auburn Area Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, Beall said. The jackets will be mailed to Salvation Army chapters or Girl Scouts councils in storm-hit areas to be distributed, she said.

“We want to get these out right away because cold weather is coming,” Beall said. “So that’s why I’m really emphasizing this weekend to collect jackets.”

For more information on the jacket drive, contact Beall at (530) 613-5449.


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews