October 29, 2012

Elk, Wash., man directing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in New York

By The Spokesman-Review
Mark Lennihan photo

Peter Cusack, center, and Mel Bermudez walk their dogs Teague, left, and Molly along the Brooklyn waterfront beneath the New York skyline as Hurricane Sandy advances on the city, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy continued on its path Monday, forcing the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain.
(Full-size photo)

Red Cross relief efforts in New York are being organized by an Eastern Washington retiree pressed into service because of his nearly four decades of disaster management experience.

Glenn Lockwood, of Elk, a small community north of Spokane, was flown to New York City on Saturday, where he’s overseeing operations at nearly 90 emergency shelters.

Lockwood, 65, retired in 2011 from the Red Cross, but he’s a frequently deployed as a senior volunteer to large-scale emergencies.

The shelters were established on Sunday in preparation for the onslaught of the storm’s landfall and had about 1,700 stay overnight with another 30,000 people expected in the coming days.

Businesses, grocery stores and restaurants have all closed in preparation for the storm. Because of the wind, most of the trees have lost their fall leaves, he said Monday. Anything not tied down is at risk of blowing away and people walking outside are finding it difficult.

“It’s not the full impact of what’s coming,” Lockwood said. “This storm they are saying is likely to measure up to the worst event in the last century.”

Red Cross is focusing on keeping shelters staffed and stocked with food, water and medical supplies. Red Cross has dispatched more than 1,300 disaster workers to the region for the incoming storm. They’re supporting nine states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia and Massachusetts.

“I’m not sure any community can be quite prepared for this degree,” Lockwood said. The storm’s path is expected to pummel New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but it could also twist through western New York, which means Lockwood would have to shift his relief crews to that area of the state.

His work force of more than 500 volunteers is expected to double or even triple once the storm passes.

Two other Spokane-area residents have been sent to New York to help with Sandy relief for technical and shelter support.

More volunteers were requested on Monday for long term disaster relief throughout the East Coast, but with regional air travel in hiatus, additional crews won’t arrive until later this week after national Red Cross officers assess the storm’s damage.

Inland Northwest Red Cross spokeswoman Megan Snow says there are an additional ten volunteers in Spokane ready for deployment if there’s a need for their specific skills.

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