Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 30, 2012

Local volunteers head east to aid storm victims

Editor caught up in scramble to escape Sandy's wrath

TRAVERSE CITY — Two local Red Cross volunteers were among 30 West Michigan volunteers deployed to the East Coast to support emergency response efforts amid the specter of Hurricane Sandy.

"We had a third volunteer ready to leave Sunday, but connecting flights had been cancelled," said Kevin Bavers, executive director of American Red Cross of Northwest Michigan. "We also have five on standby and hope to get them out Wednesday or Thursday if flights are resumed.

Cherry Capital Airport manager Kevin Klein said the storm had not delayed any flights or passengers Monday.

One local person affected by the hurricane: Record-Eagle City Editor Kathy Gibbons. She spent Monday morning trying to outrun the storm from Washington, D.C.

Gibbons traveled to Washington, D.C. on Friday on a "cheap ticket out of Lansing to Washington" and then took a train to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to visit her son and his wife. She planned to leave for New York late Sunday afternoon but changed plans after hearing news reports that New York City's trains and subways would be shut down early Sunday evening.

She traveled for hours by train Sunday from Albany to New York City and was able to catch one of the last trains out of the New York to Washington, D.C. about 5 p.m.

"When I got there, they were shutting down the Metro stations. It was pandemonium," Gibbons said. "Reagan Airport was quiet when I left, but there's tons of traffic in Washington."

By 11 a.m. Monday she was in Maryland, heading west at 50 mph in a rented car.

"The radio just said it's going to hit landfall in New Jersey in two-in-a-half hours," she reported then. 'It's going 13 to 14 miles and hour and I'm driving about 55, so I think I'm going to make it."

On her way out of Washington she saw two people in a canoe paddling on the Potomac River.

"It's crazy," she said.

By 4 p.m. she was rolling through Youngstown, Ohio. It was still raining and "very windy," she said. The radio reported that Pennsylvania had closed all its schools as she drove through and 90 mph winds thrashed Delaware, where police reportedly ticketed anyone driving on the roads.

"I'm really glad I was able to get out of there today," she said.

Meanwhile, Michigan's Consumers Energy was sending crews Monday to the East Coast to help with expected damage and power outages. Fourteen workers had already been deployed to help with damage assessment for FirstEnergy in Hagerstown, Md., Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop said.

Another 120 contract employees were sent to assist with power restoration along the East Coast.

He said the Jackson-based utility's top priority is to make sure there are enough resources to assist its customers in Michigan in the event of a power outage.

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