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Rocky Mountain Power, Red Cross continue to provide aid in Sandy’s aftermath

SHARE Rocky Mountain Power, Red Cross continue to provide aid in Sandy’s aftermath

SALT LAKE CITY — As cleanup and repair from superstorm Sandy continue, workers and volunteers from Utah have added their efforts to assisting the devastated areas.

On Monday, 10 volunteers from the American Red Cross Utah Region were deployed to the East Coast, joining 12 Red Cross volunteers from Utah and more than 5,000 Red Cross volunteers already deployed.

"As the need for Red Cross assistance continues to unfold, Utah continues to rise to the occasion," said Maxine Margaritis, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Utah Region. "We've seen incredible generosity from Utahns already, including vital donations of money and blood."

Since the storm hit one week ago, Red Cross volunteers have distributed more than 1 million meals and snacks, provided more than 17,000 health services and handed out more than 60,000 relief items, according to the Utah Red Cross.

As of Monday, more than 1.3 million people in areas affected by the storm continued to be without electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Utility companies from around the West, including Utah's Rocky Mountain Power, sent workers last week to assist in efforts to restore power to East Coast households.

Maria O'Mara, Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman, said 16 linemen from Utah had been stationed in four-man teams around Livingston, N.J. The linemen, along with two managers from Utah, were working to repair and replace damaged power lines and were prepared to stay up to three weeks on the East Coast, she said.

"Local customers they've helped have been extremely grateful and surprised," O'Mara said. "They've been glad to see us."

Todd Lindley, one of the deployed Rocky Mountain Power managers, said the scene around Livingston is full of large, downed trees, some with exposed root systems that span 50 to 75 feet.

The extended power outages have shuttered the local economy, creating long lines for what services remain available, Lindley said.

"There's only a few fuel stations open, and we've seen lines as long as six miles," he said. "People have waited up to eight hours to fill their vehicles."

Lindley said his crew has been working to remove trees, replace downed lines and toppled poles, and repair utility equipment torn from the side of buildings. The workers arrived in Livingston just after dark, he said, and while they couldn't see the full scope of the scene, it was clear they had a significant task ahead of them.

"It was pretty obvious that certain sections were de-energized," Lindley said. "We knew we were coming into an area that had a large amount of damages."

Except for an "isolated incident" with a disgruntled homeowner, Lindley said residents have been overwhelmingly cordial to the utility crews. In most cases, the Rocky Mountain Power linemen are the first utility workers residents have seen, he said.

"Everyone has been extremely grateful and surprised to know they brought us in from Utah," Lindley said.

He also said he's optimistic that the work his crew has been assigned can be completed in two weeks. But a lot of work, such as clearing roadways and property of debris, as well as the utility damage in surrounding areas, could require more time, Lindley said.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com