Sacrificing for storm victims

Published 11:07 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

The nation continues to watch the images and footage of gas lines, heaps of ruins, scavenging survivors, looters, freezing residents and other signs of the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy. The scenes are hard to imagine for anyone who has not personally been through such a natural disaster. Even for those who have, the scale of this one seems an order of magnitude larger than what they’ve seen in the past.

Adding insult to injury this week was the arrival of a nor’easter to that same region, knocking out power again for many thousands of people, dropping inches of snow across the area and sending the mercury falling in thermometers throughout the Northeast. There are people truly suffering in that part of the nation, and it seems clear that wide swaths of the land will be rebuilding for quite some time. For many of the victims, though, it’s hard to think much about what the distant future holds, as there are more pressing concerns over the need for heat, food, water, electricity, clean bathrooms and all those other things we so often take for granted.

One sign of hope is the number of volunteers and out-of-state utility workers who have headed into the devastated areas of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. They have come, news reports indicate, from all over the nation — as far away as Washington state. They have even come from right here in Western Tidewater. The goal is to restore utility service — especially electricity — as quickly as possible, considering the fact that already-cold temperatures will continue to drop with each passing day of November.

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Many people who lived in Hampton Roads during Hurricane Irene last year or Hurricane Isabel in 2003 will remember what it was like to lose power for days on end. But both of those storms blew through the area during warm weather, so even though there were inconveniences, there was never a chance of hypothermia. Victims of those storms were not at risk of freezing to death when the sun went down.

Utility crews from around the country remain on alert throughout the year to be ready to move into areas affected by disasters — whether hurricanes, blizzards, floods, tornados or man-caused catastrophes. Sometimes they’re even called to work those situations when their own homes are in danger. It can be a thankless job, so we want to take this chance to say it: Thank you!