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Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Red Cross director helps with Hurricane Sandy recovery

By Amy Kronenberger
St. Marys - A local official braved the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy to help with recovery efforts in New York City.
Auglaize County Red Cross Director Ken Cline spent about two and a half weeks in Manhattan helping residents who had lost everything to the super storm on Oct. 29. He delivered food, water and medical supplies to those in need.
"The Red Cross was just screaming for help," he told St. Marys Rotarians during their meeting Wednesday.
Cline, a former fire chief with the St. Marys Fire Department, said he volunteered immediately to help out on the East Coast but waited a week to depart because the storm could have continued west and hit Ohio.
"I waited to see if we would need to set up shelters here, but when we didn't, I packed up and headed out," he said.
He arrived in Manhattan on Nov. 5 and expected to stay in a shelter but learned every unit was full with hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The city utilized every resource it could for shelters, including docking and opening up the naval ship SS Wright. Cline was forced to stay at a high-end hotel because the cheaper hotels were booked with residents who could afford to stay out of the shelters.
While delivering food and supplies in a box truck from place to place, Cline said he saw everything from flood damage that buried cars to entire neighborhoods that burnt to the ground.
"The fire departments couldn't get out to do any rescues to fight fires," he said.
He saw yachts and piles of silt, trash and dead fish sitting in the middle of streets.
"The smell of the fish was becoming quite horrendous," he said.
Residents and workers in one area turned a parking lot into a temporary landfill, Cline said. Garbage trucks would come and take the trash to an unknown location.
"I don't know where they were going," he said. "I don't know if they were just dumping it into the ocean or what, but no one seemed to know or wanted to say."
Every Red Cross disaster relief truck in the U.S. was deployed to the East Coast, and Cline said lines of people willing to take anything they could get formed down the streets.   
Cline also spent a few days looking in shelters for residents who were reported missing and was able to arrange some reunions. One individual he found was presumed drowned, and he was able to reunite him with his family.
"Some of the stories were very rewarding," he said.  
Despite Cline's rewarding and eye-opening experience, he said he will not miss the chaos of life in New York.
"I won't be in any hurry to go back because of the driving," he said. "That was the most stressful thing I had to deal with while I was there. It was crazy, just chaos."
Cline's deployment ended Nov. 22, but the Red Cross never left, he said. Volunteers were still there helping those in need when the blizzard hit the area last weekend.
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