By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Sandra White and Nancy Howarth hoisted themselves into a Red Cross Emergency Relief Vehicle on Monday and headed from Tupelo to the storm-ravaged East Coast.
Once there, the women will join a legion of other Mississippians prepared to distribute food, supplies and technical assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“I’ve been doing this almost 12 years,” said Howarth, of Olive Branch. “I enjoy helping people.”
The storm, among the largest in U.S. history, slammed into the East Coast on Monday and is expected to produce high winds, heavy flooding and several feet of snow as it blows through several states. Sandy already has caused closures, evacuations and power outages along the coast.
It’s a “life-threatening storm,” according to the National Hurricane Center.
No stranger to receiving outside aid, Mississippi is returning the favor by dispatching numerous teams ready to help. The Mississippi Region of the American Red Cross sent six Emergency Response Vehicles and 27 volunteers – including Howarth and White – to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
“Mississippi is the most disaster-prone state in the nation, and we don’t get an opportunity to help often, so we love the chance to do so,” said Cheryl Kocurek, Red Cross readiness and response manager.
Also en route are three swift-water rescue officers from the Tupelo Fire Department. They’re among about a dozen swift-water rescuers statewide dispatched by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
“They’ll go into areas after the hurricane hits that will be flooded,” said Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker. “They’ll be able to assist or rescue people who didn’t get out before the storm hit.”
More than 50 emergency crews from various Mississippi power associations left today to help restore electricity in Virginia.
Among them were 18 employees of Tombigbee Electric Power Association.
They’ll work with the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, according to MEMA, which had sent several of its own employees to provide coordination and technical assistance to relief efforts up north.
Other agencies, including Tupelo Water & Light and the Salvation Army, remain on standby.
Howarth and White said they expect to stay on the East Coast for two or three weeks. They’ll distribute food and clean-up kits, mostly.
“Everybody needs help now and then,” said White, of Tupelo. “We all need to pull together.”