Local volunteers head east to help with Irene - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Local volunteers head east to help with Irene


MADISON (WKOW) -- Even though Hurricane Irene is more than a thousand miles away from Madison, it feels much closer for locals with friends and family living in its projected path.

"He is not used to this," Brittany Schmidt said. "This is a new experience for him."

Brittany's brother, Nathan, moved to South Carolina from Wisconsin about three years ago. He lives near the coast in Myrtle Beach.

"Everybody is sheltered in by now," Nathan said. "They have either left or they are being a homebody and watching movies. They advise you to stay inside."

Downtown Charleston reported 49 mph winds this afternoon and about 5,000 people in the state lost power.

"A lot of shelves are getting bare, especially canned goods," Nathan said.

He stocked up on food and water, but that was before he learned Hurricane Irene will just miss him. Forecasters expect it to hit hard in places like Washington, D.C. and New York.

That is exactly where help is headed. The Red Cross Badger and South Central Wisconsin chapter sent four volunteers to New York.

A crew of about 30 to 40 people with Hooper Corporation are also going to help with power outages.

"The problem here is all neighboring utilities will get hit by the storm," said Steve Lindley, Vice President of Hooper Corporation. "That is why they have to get resources from so far away."

Workers could be there for at least two weeks.

"They work 16 hours a day. They get off eight hours, get some sleep and they are back at it the next day," Lindley said. "It's tough working conditions."

And tough living conditions. 

"The utility we work for does their best to try to accommodate the guys but sometimes it is tent cities," Lindley said. "The guys have ended up sleeping in their trucks before. There is not a lot of hot meals and showers. It is difficult working conditions as well as dangerous around the power lines that are down."

The crew left for Albany, New York Friday and Lindley says he is still getting calls from utility companies on the East Coast looking for help.

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