Almost as soon as superstorm Sandy moved off the coast, emergency crews and volunteers moved in to help clean up the damage and help those in need.
Jane Ramey of Black River Falls was one of three Red Cross volunteers from our area that made their way towards superstorm Sandy over the weekend.
This is her 10th trip volunteering with the organization. She’s helped with Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, but she says the damage from Sandy may be the worst the Red Cross has ever faced.
Empty streets littered with debris and damaged store fronts is what Ramey said are just some of the devastating reminders of superstorm Sandy.
“There are no restaurants that are open,” said Ramey. “None of the stores are open. So it's pretty much a ghost town.”
She arrived in White Plains, N.Y., just 20 minutes outside of New York City, as a Red Cross volunteer late Saturday evening. Hours later Sandy struck with heavy rain and powerful 85 mph. winds gusts.
“Just really the rattling and the rain and the power was flickering from obviously the wind, and they had to lock the doors because the doors kept blowing so there was a lot of debris coming in,” said Ramey. “It was real ominous, so we shut our windows and blinds and curtains because if the windows broke we didn't want to be in the midst of it. So it was kind of scary.”
The powerful storm knocked out power to millions of homes and businesses.
Ramey said the Red Cross and its partners have opened up 240 shelters for displaced residents, but out of such devastation comes a community effort to rebuild.
“It's sad seeing all the damage, but the goodness comes out in everybody in the community and it’s such a rewarding experience to see that in such disastrous conditions,” said Ramey.
She's spending the next two weeks volunteering with the Red Cross. She'll be heading out soon to help families move out of the shelters into more stable living situations and getting them medical attention they may need. It’s a task that may take months, but it's one she's ready for.
“What you see on TV is nothing compared to what you see in person,” said Ramey. “There's a lot of damage, so when we go out tomorrow, we'll probably go into New York [and] probably in New Jersey. We've got a big coverage area that we'll process for damage and healthy living conditions, and so I've braced for a lot of trees down and stuff like that. I think it's going to be very extensive.”
Ramey said Red Cross volunteers are asked to help in two week shifts at a time, but she says she might extend her stay to about a month because of the extent of the damage.
This Thursday, the local Red Cross will be holding a fundraising drive outside of the La Crosse Center.
Red Cross officials will be collecting monetary donations from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. to help with relief efforts out east.