Folks with Utah ties batten down the hatches along East Coast

Oct 29 2012 - 10:12pm

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Heavy surf crashes over a seawall on the Atlantic Ocean during the early stages of Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Kennebunk, Maine. Hurricane Sandy wheeled toward land as forecasters feared Monday, raking cities along the Northeast corridor with rain and wind gusts, flooding shore towns, washing away a section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and threatening to cripple Wall Street and New York's subway system with a huge surge of corrosive seawater. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Heavy surf crashes over a seawall on the Atlantic Ocean during the early stages of Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Kennebunk, Maine. Hurricane Sandy wheeled toward land as forecasters feared Monday, raking cities along the Northeast corridor with rain and wind gusts, flooding shore towns, washing away a section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and threatening to cripple Wall Street and New York's subway system with a huge surge of corrosive seawater. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

OGDEN -- Former Utahns living or studying on the East Coast hunkered down Monday, waiting for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, agencies back in Utah waited to see what they could do to help.

Two American Red Cross volunteers were set to go to Albany, N.Y., on Sunday, but they were unable to get out of Salt Lake City when their flight was canceled, one of thousands of flights around the nation canceled by the storms.

Spokeswoman Teresa Zundel said the Red Cross is sheltering thousands of people in more than 100 shelters along the East Coast.

More than 100 Utahns are trained to work in those shelters, she said -- but none can get there as long as the weather keeps airports closed.

Salt Lake City International Airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said more than a dozen flights out of Salt Lake to and from all points along the East Coast have been canceled, but she said no travelers have been stranded in Salt Lake.

Because flights are interconnected, she urged anyone flying anywhere to check the flight's status before leaving for the airport.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it was waiting to see what, if any, emergency services it could provide.

A church spokesman said mission presidents in the hurricane's path were calling their missionaries in and taking all precautions as ordered by civil authorities.

In a news release Monday afternoon, the church said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Local church leaders along the eastern coast of the United States have made preparations for the storm.

"Church representatives are in contact with FEMA, The American Red Cross, VOAD and other relief agencies to coordinate response efforts. Forty-two LDS volunteers are supporting Red Cross shelter operations in New Jersey and neighboring areas.

"The church is working closely with the Red Cross to identify additional shelter locations if needed. The church stands ready to assist affected communities.

"Emergency response resources have been prepositioned in Bishop's Storehouses in the area. These resources include items such as food, water, blankets, hygiene supplies, tarps, cleaning supplies, chain saws and shovels."

Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit the East Coast somewhere near New Jersey either Monday night or this morning, but its impact was being felt as far south as Washington, D.C., where Thomas Thompson and his wife, Krista, moved a year ago from Ogden.

Thompson works for the Treasury Department as a computer technician, and the couple lives in Manassas, Va., about 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.

He said he and Krista have put sandbags around their basement windows in anticipation of as much as 10 inches of rain and are hunkering down, although he still had to "go to work" because he telecommutes on Mondays.

The problem with that is, the people using the computers in the office in D.C. stayed home.

"Nobody else is on, so there's not a lot for me to do," he said.

On Monday afternoon, conditions were still good, he said.

"When we got here during Irene (a year ago), the rain was hard enough the visibility was like 40 to 50 feet. Right now, it's mostly wind."

But he said the area was getting warnings to expect sustained winds of up to 75 mph at the storm's peak.

"I would love to see that, but maybe from a safe distance," he said.

In Massachusetts, Caitlyn Szalay, an Ogden resident studying at Tufts University, said her apartment in Medford still has power, but none of the towns around her do.

"The governor told all public schools and private schools to close, so everybody was just encouraged to stay home today," she said.

Businesses were also encouraged to stay closed.

She said despite all that, her husband, Sam Ashworth, still had to go to work, which he does via telecommuting for a computer software company based in Utah.

Joni Godbout, who moved from Ogden to Killingly, Conn., in 1989, said, "We're right in the middle of this storm. It's really gusty, and we got a lot of rain. There's power out across the state, but it hasn't knocked ours out yet. It's knocked my satellite out over and over again."

Winds were increasing, and she said roads everywhere are closed.

"It's bad. They've already blocked off all the major roads, and a friend of ours just came home. He was trying to visit his mother, and the cops told him go back."

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