November 1, 2012

Maine workers head south to help with Sandy aftermath

The hurricane killed at least 68 people in the mid-Atlantic states, left six million without power and caused at least $20 billion in damage.

By David Hench
Staff Writer

As Maine continues to bounce back from its brush with Superstorm Sandy, attention and resources are shifting to help the millions of people to the south who took a direct hit from the storm.

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Currie Wagner looks at the wreckage of his grandmother Betty Wagner's house, which was destroyed and wound up resting on top of the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after hybrid storm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the devastation on the New Jersey shore is "unthinkable" and that the state will likely take months to recover. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Sandy killed at least 68 people in the mid-Atlantic states, left six million people without power and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

Now relief workers, power line crews and first responders from Maine are going south to help ease the misery and speed the recovery.

"Massive relief efforts are under way. ... They're devastated down there," said Jason Shedlock, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Maine.

Volunteers left Wednesday and more will leave each day through next week, including mental health specialists, shelter workers, health care providers and people trained to feed large numbers of people.

Central Maine Power Co. planned to finish restoring electricity to its customers by Wednesday night, then have many linemen go south to help in heavily damaged areas.

By 11 p.m. Wednesday, about 1,200 utility workers and contractors had restored power to all but about 2,300 isolated customers.

John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP, said, "Progress starts to slow down because you may work for two hours and you get one or two homes back on."

A total of about 165,000 customers in Maine lost power as the storm hammered the state from noon Monday through Tuesday morning.

"Customers started losing power on Monday at noon, and 48 hours later, 98 percent have been restored, and that (48 hours) included the storm itself," Carroll said Wednesday afternoon.

He said CMP would probably decide within six to eight hours after completing the restoration how many crews to send south.

"Almost everyone south of us needs more crews," said Carroll.

The greatest need now is outside New England, as hard-hit states like New York and New Jersey deal with massive damage to electrical infrastructure.

Other agencies in Maine are participating in the relief efforts. The Maine Forest Ranger Incident Management Team left Wednesday for New York City, with seven rangers, a sheriff's deputy and a communications specialist from Washington County.

Shedlock said he expects to get reports from Red Cross volunteers from Maine who went to New York and New Jersey on Wednesday.

"By all accounts, it's like nothing most of these folks, our volunteers, have ever experienced before," he said. "I'm sure they'll have amazing insight and stories about how broad the devastation is."

Shedlock said Mainers who want to help can donate money. The Red Cross also needs blood donations since hundreds of collection events were canceled because of the storm, he said.

In Maine, the cleanup continued for many homeowners whose yards were littered with branches, debris and even whole trees.

Sanford residents will be able to bring storm debris to the town's transfer station for free, said Public Works Director Charles Andresen.

"Usually, after a major storm event, we open up our transfer station for the residents to be able to bring debris," he said. "If we get lucky and it's a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) event, we get reimbursed for it, but it's a community service."

Other communities offer the same service for their residents, he said.

Staff Writer David Hench, 791-6327 or:

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Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts after looking at debris of a home that washed up on to the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after superstorm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking, N.J. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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The high tide floods streets, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 from the effects of Hurricane Sandy in Hampton, N.H. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, as the storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

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Robert Connolly, left, embraces his wife Laura as they survey the remains of the home owned by her parents that burned to the ground in the Breezy Point section of New York, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. More than 50 homes were destroyed in the fire which swept through the oceanfront community during superstorm Sandy. At right is their son, Kyle. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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