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Central Valley sends aid to hurricane victims

POSTED October 30, 2012 9:58 p.m.

As the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the following superstorm continues to mount, area residents are not only sympathizing with those on the East Coast but many are asking how they can help.

"Calls are coming in now as many are seeing images of the destruction; people want to help," said American Red Cross Capitol Region Chapter CEO Dawn Lindblom.

The ARC Capitol Region Chapter — which includes Stanislaus County — sent 18 disaster response volunteers on Saturday to help in sheltering the thousands of East Coast residents who were evacuated due to flooding.  And Lindblom expects there will soon be a need for more volunteers to aid disaster victims in the coming weeks.

"Now that the storm has made landfall...folks are taking a look at the impact and what the needs are. Once they determine that, we anticipate a call-down for volunteers; we're still in the wait-and-see mode," Lindblom said.

The Red Cross has already mobilized 1,700 disaster workers from all over the country who have served more than 25,000 meals and snacks so far. Nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in more than 250 Red Cross shelters across 16 states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Indiana, and Michigan. These numbers could increase as the storm moves into cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy wind, rain and snow.

Along with volunteer efforts to help disaster victims, professional emergency responders from the area have been deployed to the East Coast. Thirty paramedics and emergency medical technicians from American Medical Response's Northern California operations — including six from the San Joaquin/ Stanislaus area — were sent to aid in critical evacuations and provide emergency care.

AMR is contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond in times of disaster, said AMR spokesperson Jason Sorrick.

"These individuals are especially assigned to this strike team," Sorrick said. "Regular coverage will not by impacted."

One AMR NorCal Strike Team, which Sorrick said included members from the San Joaquin/Stanislaus area, was shown on CNN evacuating one of the 20 babies from New York University's Tisch Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. NYU had to evacuate 200 patients after its backup generator failed.

"These team members are highly trained to stay out in these kinds of conditions over long periods with limited resources," Sorrick said. "We hope everyone comes back safe."

The conditions across the East Coast continue to worsen. Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas are without electricity, and superstorm Sandy  continues to deliver gale force winds and rain. By Tuesday morning, the U.S. death toll climbed to 39, many of the victims killed by falling trees.

The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, was unclear. Police and fire officials, some with their own departments flooded, fanned out to rescue hundreds.

"We are in the midst of urban search and rescue. Our teams are moving as fast as they can," Gov. Chris Christie told the Associated Press. "The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen. The cost of the storm is incalculable at this point."

More than 8.2 million people across the East were without power. Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights around the world, and it could be days before the mess is untangled and passengers can get where they're going.

The Associated Press reported that Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S., according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

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