Rick Farrier is no stranger to disaster relief efforts.
Only weeks after returning from Louisiana where he had been sent to help out with storm relief, Farrier, a local Red Cross volunteer from Eudora, prepared Wednesday to leave again, this time for the East Coast to help out with recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
“I just got home from seeing my granddaughter in Colorado, so at least I got that out of the way before I got called,” he said while waiting to be picked up for this next assignment.
“It sounds like I’ll probably be on the ERV (emergency response vehicle) team this time, which is usually going out to sites and feeding people out of the ERV or distributing supplies to people who don’t have any water or food,” he said.
Farrier said he expects to be in New York and New Jersey for about three weeks as that area recovers from a historic storm that so far, according to The Associated Press, has claimed at least 62 lives and caused an estimated $20 billion worth of property damage. It’s one of the most expensive disasters in U.S. history.
He is just one of many people from Douglas County and northeast Kansas who are being dispatched to the East Coast to help the recovery effort.
Jamie Dierking, regional spokesman for the Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, said 14 people from the region that includes Douglas County were sent to the disaster area on Saturday, before the storm struck, and he expects that number to climb to about 25 within the next several days.
National Red Cross officials say the storm has also disrupted blood supplies throughout the country because it forced cancellation of blood drives that had been scheduled in the densely populated storm region.
Officials say the shortage of blood is likely to last for months.
Lawrence residents who want to donate blood may do so at either of two upcoming Red Cross blood drives. The first is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, at Baker University, 618 Eighth St. in Baldwin City. Officials there ask that donors contact Zach Aldrich at 785-594-6451 to schedule an appointment.
Another blood drive will take place in Lawrence from 11:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, at First Christian Church, 1000 Kentucky St.
In addition to the Red Cross, state emergency management agencies and local utility companies are sending aid to the area.
The Kansas Adjutant General’s office announced Wednesday that two employees from the Division of Emergency Management are being deployed to the New York area.
Brandt Haehn, of Topeka, planning and mitigation branch director, and Jacob Gray, of Mayetta, state hazard mitigation officer, left for New York Tuesday to help with recovery logistics.
They are being deployed under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a multistate emergency management support agreement that expedites disaster assistance between states, according to a news release from the Adjutant General’s office.
That team is in addition to a seven-person incident management team that was deployed to Maryland last weekend. That team consists of area city and county emergency responders, including Division Chief Shaun Coffey of the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.
Officials at Westar Energy say they have dispatched four crews, including one four-man crew from Lawrence, to help restore power to customers of UGI Utilities in Wilkes Barre, Pa. About 17,000 customers in that area lost power as a result of the storm. The company said power in that area should be fully restored within a couple of days, after which the crews will move on to other parts of the disaster region.
Meanwhile, the storm on the East Coast has affected certain schedules at Kansas University.
KU’s Office of Admissions announced Wednesday that the deadline to apply for scholarships will be extended for applicants from the East Coast whose lives have been disrupted by the storm. The normal deadline is Thursday, Nov. 1, but the university is extending that a week, to Nov. 8, for those affected by the storm.
Also, a lecture by equal-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter has been postponed because of complications involving travel arrangements. The lecture, which had been slated for Thursday, is now scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.