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Dave Olson, Published October 29 2012

5 local Red Cross volunteers in New Jersey for storm

FARGO – Five local American Red Cross volunteers are in New Jersey helping that area deal with Hurricane Sandy.

The workers represent the Minn-Kota Region of the Red Cross and are from Fargo, Minot, N.D., and Dickinson, N.D.

All flew from their respective cities to Tinton Falls, N.J., on Saturday after receiving just 12 hours’ notice, said Randy Johnson, chief executive officer of the Minn-Kota Region of the American Red Cross.

Johnson said it is possible an additional eight to 10 volunteers will be asked to drive Red Cross emergency response vehicles from this area to the East Coast to provide food and water to people who will be cleaning up homes and neighborhoods.

“We sent two vehicles down for (Hurricane) Isaac, and I suspect they’re going to ask us to do the same thing (for Hurricane Sandy),” Johnson said.

Hurricane Isaac caused heavy damage to parts of the Gulf Coast in late summer.

Johnson said Red Cross volunteers from this region who are now in New Jersey include Sonya Carlson and Randy Schatz, from the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Carlson has training in mass care and feeding, while Schatz is a sheltering expert.

Johnson said the two are part of a group of volunteers who have agreed to travel long distances on short notice.

“That’s pretty special to have volunteers who are willing to do that,” he said.

As of early Monday, the Red Cross had opened 112 shelters along the East Coast that were housing about 3,200 people, Johnson said.

“We’ve got volunteers from all over the country heading for the scene,” he said. “Their primary role will be to set up these shelters.”

Meanwhile, area power companies said Monday they had not received requests for assistance arising from the storm.

Representatives of Xcel Energy, Moorhead Public Service and Cass County Electric said the utilities would consider requests for help, though they anticipate power companies closer to the storm area would be contacted first.

They also said they would have to weigh customer needs to determine how much help they could provide.

Xcel sent crews to Ohio last summer when that area experienced high temperatures and rough weather.

In the past, Moorhead Public Service sent crews to Northwood, N.D., in the wake of a tornado and to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“If asked and we had employees that wanted to, we would certainly offer,” said Bill Schwandt, MPS general manager.

He said when MPS extends mutual aid, it usually does so in collaboration with the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association.

Schwandt said parts of the East Coast are particularly vulnerable to wind storms because power lines are generally overhead.

“Out there, all the old areas are overhead,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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