About 30 employees of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) were waiting for travel plans Friday, Nov. 2, that could send them to help restore power in communities hard hit by Hurricane Sandy and the resulting "super storm."
According to a federal government estimate, 3.7 million people still were without power four days after the wide, slow-moving storm made landfall in New York and New Jersey. Hundreds of thousands of residents in Manhattan and other New York City boroughs remain in the dark, and the Jersey Shore has been severely damaged. The death toll in the U.S. is nearing 100.
Don Boland, executive director of the California Utilities Emergency Association, says he is prepared to put six IID line construction crews — half the water's district's line construction personnel —on military aircraft and deploy them where and if needed. The volunteers would help replace poles and string wire. The workers expect to be gone about two weeks if called upon. For now, the group is in a holding pattern and remains at work in their service area 115 miles east of San Diego.
Emergency management officials are working to restore power to the affected East Coast communities, and then the next priority will be to assess and fix water systems. New Jersey has issued boil-water advisories for Atlantic City and 11 other communities. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has declared the city's drinking water safe to drink after testing water 3,000 times since Sandy hit the region. Floodwaters tested in New York City were found to contain E.coli, sewage, gasoline and other contaminants.
At least a few California water agencies are offering assistance. The Los Angeles City Council passed an emergency measure authorizing the deployment of L.A. Department of Water and Power crews if requested. PG&E and Southern California Edison are among the companies lending trucks, equipment and personnel for the repair efforts.
Ray Riordan, the chair of CalWARN — the California Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network — says to his knowledge no state or local water departments in California have been called upon at this stage to provide water-related cleanup assistance. The nationwide system of mutual aid is coordinated through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). So far, EMAC has tapped resources from 20 states closer than California to the Northeast, for the sake of better efficiency, Riordan says.
For the power line repairs, IID is prepared to send three crews each from its Imperial and La Quinta divisions, two line superintendents and a safety work practices technician, according to a press release from the IID. The crew might hop-scotch across the U.S., helping communities in the Midwest before arriving on the East Coast.