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Published: Tuesday, 8/29/2006

Hurricane's lesson: Recovery workers headed to Florida 'just in case'


As Florida residents brace for the fierce winds of Hurricane Ernesto, local recovery workers are heading that way to help.

The Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and Toledo Edison both dispatched personnel to Florida yesterday. Recognizing that the hurricane will take time to travel to the region, both the nonprofit agency and local electrical company, respectively, sent relief workers early so that any necessary recovery efforts could begin immediately.

Yesterday, the American Red Cross sent another local volunteer, Ralph Raber, to join volunteers Amy Newman-Mentel and Doug Dinnebiel. The trio will be involved in mass care and sheltering to support the needs of those residents who may be evacuating, said spokesman Jodie Tienvieri.

Twenty-six Toledo Edison workers began the drive south yesterday with about a dozen pieces of heavy equipment, said Chuck Krueger, the company's vice president of external relations. Another 50 employees and equipment from Cleveland Electric Illuminating and Ohio Edison, other subsidiaries of Toledo Edison parent FirstEnergy Corp., also left yesterday.

The paid volunteers from First Energy would be used to reset wooden or steel utility poles, reset transformers on the poles, and string the thousands of lines that could be blown down in the event of a hurricane strike.

"Our goal is to be of assistance," Mr. Krueger said. "We'll be doing whatever they need."

Since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf coast last year, he said utility companies have had agreements in place to come to the assistance of southern power companies before a disaster hits.

Florida Power and Light Co. requested assistance from a number of power companies from around the nation. Mr. Krueger said that the Florida company will reimburse First Energy for the expenses and salaries of those workers sent to Florida.

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