Hurricane Sandy has left its mark on the East Coast this week, but the storm's effects are being felt nationwide as flights are grounded, supplies are needed and volunteers head out to offer their assistance.
Locally, MidAmerican Energy employees have voluntarily made their way to the Albany, N.Y., area where they will be helping utility companies restore power to the nearly 8 million East Coast residents left in the dark as a result of the storm.
On Saturday, a group of 116 people, including MidAmerican employees and contract workers departed for New York. On Monday, a smaller group of 12 employees, including some from Fort Dodge, left from Iowa City to head to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where they will assist crews from Central Hudson Gas & Electric with restoration efforts, Tina Potthoff, a spokesperson for MidAmerican Energy, said.
"The crews are working for Central Hudson Gas & Electric," said Potthoff. "They have 82,000 customers without power; and if they release our crews they will head to other areas in need of assistance. There are a number of utilities in that area that have customers without power."
A group of about 200 contractors, including tree workers and linemen are currently assisting along the East Coast.
"We are part of a mutual assistance network," said Potthoff. "We're doing our best to fulfill the need. We told our crews to be prepared and pack for two weeks."
The local chapter of the American Red Cross has also sent out volunteers from across the region who will be assisting with the delivery of food, ice and water and cleanup efforts and volunteering in some of the more than 250 Red Cross shelters set up along the East Coast.
"There were more than 11,000 people staying in our shelters, and those are all staffed by volunteers," said Tammie Pech, regional communications officer with the Greater Northwest Iowa Area of the American Red Cross. "Right now we don't have any volunteers who specifically from Fort Dodge who have gone, but the Fort Dodge truck went with a crew from Northwest Iowa on Monday. There are five emergency response vehicles from Iowa set out for New York, New Jersey and Maryland."
Pech said there are an additional 30 volunteers in the northwest Iowa area on standby ready to travel east if the need arises.
Travel to the East Coast has also been complicated by the storm. Hundreds of flights have been canceled as airports in major U.S. cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston have closed.
Flights are still on schedule at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport, Rhonda Chambers, director of aviation at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport said.
"Our flights are all on time to Minneapolis," said Chambers. "But it is advisable to check with your connecting airline from Minneapolis if you are planning to travel east."