Georgians heading to front lines to help with Sandy Relief

Updated:

Two Georgia National Guard Ch-47 Chinook helicopters landed in New Jersey Wednesday evening.
ATLANTA —

Georgia Power's Operational Storm Center in Atlanta is helping coordinate thousands of repair crews as they converge on the Northeast disaster area from as far as California and Hawaii, in addition to coordinating its own crews in hurricane -stricken Maryland.

"We're working with a fuel shortage, hotel shortage, food shortage, all of these things are part of what we have to deal with," said Georgia Power Distribution Manager Aaron Strickland. "We're literally moving an army where we have to take care of every need to make sure our folks are comfortable, safe and productive."

Strickland manages the Storm Center and is on conference calls with other utilities once or twice a day to coordinate their efforts. All the utilities work under a Mutual Assistance Agreement.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Georgia Power even has a specialized team on the ground in Manhattan helping crews there work on the city's underground power network, which is now under highly -corrosive sea water.

"Those vaults are underwater," said Strickland. "That means they're going to have to pump out those vaults, then they're going to have to dry them out, then they're going to have to clean them, and then they'll test the equipment before they can put it in operation. So we're talking about an extensive repair job is underway with that."

Georgia Power itself has over a thousand resources on the ground, both employees and independent contractors.

Even with all the repair efforts, Strickland can't hazard a guess as to when everything will come back online.

"I haven't received a time frame as far as what they're estimating," said Strickland. "I'm going to leave that up to them. It's scary enough looking at it from down here."

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The Georgia National Guard unit based out of Cobb County is also helping supply some relief to superstorm Sandy's front lines.

Channel 2's Mark Winne traveled with the guardsmen to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. who are preparing to move out and waiting for the go sign to start helping with the Sandy relief effort.

"How anxious are you to get up in the air?" Winne asked First Lt. James Carver with the Georgia National Guard.

"Very anxious. We're all actually excited here," Carver said. "You know we wanna go and help all the people that need help in this local area."

Two Georgia National Guard Ch-47 Chinook helicopters landed in New Jersey Wednesday evening. Winne and Channel 2 photographer Erin Frederickson were aboard with the Georgia crews.

A pilot told Winne the team is on standby if needed to deliver a search-and-rescue team of up to 20 people.

"We're currently configured for 26 people," First Sgt. Jeff Earhart said.

Air crew members told Winne the Chinook helicopter also has a capacity to haul cargo matched by few choppers, on the inside and the outside of the helicopter.

"One of the ways we carry cargo is external and we have a triple -hook system underneath the helicopter," First Lt. Hutson said. "We can hook up each hook individually or we can hook up what we call a tandem load."

Hutson told Winne they are anxious to get up in the air and help the victims of Sandy.

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