By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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These six Corps members comprise just one of eight six-member teams dispatched by the state Department of Ecology at the request of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, Ecology Communication Manager Curt Hart said Wednesday.
The 48 total crew members, who also come from Ellensburg, Seattle, Wenatchee and Yakima, have set off from Ellensburg by road in eight separate trucks and should arrive in New York City by Saturday, Hart said.
Once there, the crews, who will be compensated through Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, will receive assignments for where they’re most needed, which could be nearly anywhere in New York or New Jersey affected by Sandy, Hart explained.
“They’re bringing enough equipment to allow them to be as flexible as they need to be,” Hart said.
Much of the New York and New Jersey coasts are still reeling from Sandy, which slammed into the Eastern Seaboard Monday, killing more than 80 people and leaving 6 million without power, according to The Associated Press.
More than 4.6 million homes and businesses remained without electrical power Thursday.
The total damage from the storm could run as high as $50 billion, according to the forecasting firm Eqecat.
Hart could not say exactly what the Washington crews, serving as part of the national AmeriCorps program, will be doing once they get to the East Coast but said crews from Washington typically have more experience with chain saws and tree-clearing than AmeriCorps crews from other states.
This means, Hart explained, the Washington teams could be called on to clear paths through fallen trees so medical first responders can reach people trapped in their homes or other structures.
“These crews could be maybe the first people in a community that anyone has seen from the government,” Hart said.
Other duties could include placing sandbags, installing tarps on damaged homes or distributing food and clothing, he said.
The Washington Corps crew based in Port Hadlock is made up of Supervisor Owen French of Port Hadlock, Samuel Barcklow of Seattle, Zach Bollheimer of Ohio, Collin Gabe of Port Townsend, Richard Humphreys of Port Hadlock and Mitchell Gritts of Reno, Nev.
In past years, Washington Conservation Corps crews from across the state have helped communities nationwide, including aiding recovery efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast and when a massive tornado almost completely destroyed Joplin, Mo., in 2011, Hart said.
Travel to central part
Most recently, Washington crews traveled to the central part of the state to support firefighters battling last summer’s wildfires.
“Our folks have gotten very recent, practical, on-the-ground experience,” Hart said.
Conservation Corps crew members, except for the crew supervisor, serve a one-year stint, Hart explained, with the tour of service for the crews currently headed to New York City just starting Oct. 1.
“[For] a lot of the people from Port Hadlock, this may be their first year of service in the [Washington Conservation Corps],” Hart said.
Another Peninsula team, this one affiliated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is on the East Coast now.
Capts. Chris Turner and Bryan Swanberg and firefighter/paramedic James Brown, all of Clallam County Fire District No. 3, left Wednesday to help with Sandy recovery efforts.
For more information on the Washington Conservation Corps, visit the organization’s website at http://1.usa.gov/SsjMza.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.