Utah volunteers head east to help Irene's victims


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SALT LAKE CITY — Hurricane Irene is long gone, but people from North Carolina to New England still struggle with the effects of the powerful storm. Now Utahns are answering the call for help.

Woodland Hills resident Vern Gillmore was all geared up at Salt Lake International Airport Wednesday afternoon as he prepared to fly off to the East Coast. He only had a few hours to prepare for his first out-of-state deployment for the American Red Cross.

"I got this call last night that I would be leaving today," Gillmore said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

And he has had plenty of training to back up that eagerness to help. In the past, Gillmore has worked fires and flooding in Utah County.


I am going to see some pretty difficult situations: people really in need, disasters of homes, businesses, property, families in need. But that's what the Red Cross trains us for.

–Vern Gillmore, Red Cross volunteer


Once he lands in Rhode Island, Gillmore will find out where he's assigned to help. He and other Red Cross volunteers will distribute aid, clean up debris, and help with the emotional needs of those impacted by the storm.

In Paterson, New Jersey roads flow like rivers. "We've seen the water recede quite a bit, but it still has a long way to go," New Jersey Police Sgt. Alex Popov recently told reporters.

Irene triggered historic flooding across the northeast, including landlocked Vermont, where roads and bridges have been washed away.

"It's surreal," said Yuri MacInin, a resident of Killington, Vt. "I look up and can see the road, and it's gone."

The National Guard is airlifting supplies to communities cut off by the floods, while crews rush to rebuild the shattered infrastructure. Many homeowners face the fact that they'll have to rebuild.

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"The waves were coming through the house," said Madison, Conn., resident Adele Barnabei. "You could see it from the road. It was devastating."

Irene swept away Barmabei's home of more than 30 years. "(We lost) just all precious things that some friends have given us before. They passed away, and I have no idea where things are," she said.

Gillmore braced himself Wednesday for the job ahead. "I am going to see some pretty difficult situations: people really in need, disasters of homes, businesses, property, families in need," he said. "But that's what the Red Cross trains us for."

The death toll from Irene stands at 39 people across 10 states. Gillmore isn't sure exactly how long he'll be gone.

Email: jboal@ksl.com

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