Mid-Michigan Looks to Help East Coast as Sandy Approaches

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Since starting work with the Red Cross back in January, Christina Zinkel has seen her fair share of disaster relief efforts. She helped out following both Hurricane Issac and Tropical Storm Debbie so when it comes to Hurricane Sandy, she knows what volunteers should expect.

"You hear people's stories about how they might have had to swim out of their homes because the water is so deep," said Zinkel, who works with the Red Cross through AmeriCorps. "Hopefully, it doesn't get that bad."

The Red Cross sent 15 mid-Michigan volunteers to the East Coast over the weekend to help with relief efforts before, during and after the storm hits. Some volunteers flew and others took special Emergency Response Vehicles to help bring food and supplies to those who need them.

"We know it's going to be huge so we want to be there," said Alison Bono, Director of Communications for the Central and Northern Michigan Region of the American Red Cross.

Bono says, they are ready to send more volunteers, but recent cancelled flights because of the storm have made it difficult.

"We have volunteers sitting and waiting," said Bono. "We can get someone to California, but we can't get them to the East Coast. That's the major problem."

Consumers Energy is also getting in on the relief efforts by working with utility companies on the East Coast.

"We have 14 employees who will be going to Maryland to work with damage assessment from storm-related problems," said Dan Bishop of Consumers Energy.

They have also released 120 contracted employees to help with cleaning up fallen trees and wires.

However, with worries that Sandy could bring high winds to Michigan, Consumers says, keeping power in the homes of its 1.8 million customers in Michigan is its number one priority.

"We don't know, at this point, how big of an impact that will be," said Bishop.

The American Red Cross says they are looking for donations of blood because many blood drives have been shut down because of the storm. They are also looking for monetary donations to help support volunteer efforts.

To donate, visit redcross.org.

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