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Utahns prepare to join Hurricane Sandy service efforts


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SALT LAKE CITY — Though the hurricane may be far away, for local Red Cross volunteers, the disaster hits right at home.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in New Jersey, the New York subway system has been shut down as a result of Hurricane Sandy. About 100 local volunteers in Utah at the American Red Cross are preparing to assist with rescue efforts. Two have already been deployed to New York.

"The response time normally 24 to 48 hours is going to be drastically reduced," said Tom Panuzio, a FEMA consultant. "In other words, FEMA is not going to be able to get supplies in there soon enough because the storm is going to affect such a large area."

One volunteer, Tina Spencer, is waiting to hear if she will be next.

"It could be this week, it could be next week," she said of her call.

Teresa Zundel, with the American Red Cross, said that service could be taking hot meals to people, or working in a shelter.

If Spencer is called, it won't be her first deployment. She helped in Louisiana when Hurricane Isaac hit earlier this year.

"When you see trees uplifted, houses torn apart, cars destroyed, lives even destroyed, it's devastating," Spencer said.

Efforts on the coast would hit her even harder emotionally.

"My family is back east, that is where I am from," Spencer said. "I have a lot of friends there also that are going to be hit."

An estimated 50 million people could be impacted, and in need of volunteers like Spencer.

"To be able to help people in a disaster, there's no other feeling to get to do that, because I look at as what if that was me," Spencer said.

To help the Red Cross' efforts, text 9099 for a $10 donation, or go to redcross.org.

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Devon Dolan

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