Seattle utility crews, Red Cross volunteers head east

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD -- Seattle City Light crews are heading to the East Coast to help utility crews there restore power to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 446th airlift wing will transport 14 utility workers as well as four utility trucks and a Derrick Digger, a machine used to install power poles. The mission is a first for the McChord crew members who typically haul tanks and artillery.

"(This is) an example of all our people working together to get an unusual load on the airplane," said Lt. Col Steve Kerpius.

Seattle City Light crews are responding to a request for help from an overwhelmed power company in New York in the wake of the storm.

"When you see the images on TV or in the newspapers, you want help. And these guys are actually going to get that opportunity," said Seattle City Light spokesman Peter Clark.

"It's an incredible feeling to be able to go help during a time like this," said the McChord pilot assigned to the eastbound plane.

With civilians and the military working side by side, the mission will put Seattle power crews on the ground by Sunday morning, restoring power for storm victims.

"Long Island, where our crews are going, has been devastated," Clark said. "At one point, they had no power whatsoever."

Also headed to the disaster zone are six Red Cross volunteers from the Puget Sound area. The workers began their journey on Saturday in three emergency response vehicles packed with supplies, water and cleaning kits for the victims.

The volunteers expect the drive to take five days. Once there, they plan to stay for three weeks.