Relief workers return from Sandy aftermath

Volunteers spent two weeks helping after hurricane

SAN DIEGO - A group of relief workers from San Diego arrived at Lindbergh Field on Monday after an exhausting and emotional trip to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Workers from a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services called the Natural Disaster Medical System just returned from what looked like a war zone.

"Most people there… the only thing they had on their backs were their clothes," said relief worker Bill Phillips.

Phillips and seven others in his group assisted thousands of New Yorkers in Nassau County over the past two weeks. They arrived hours after Sandy ravaged the region and helped in any way they could.

"Prescription filling, seeing them for common illnesses… they were in a very bad way," said relief worker Lanan Wood.

When asked what went through their minds when they were flying and landing in San Diego, Wood responded, "How lucky we are."

The volunteers worked 12- to 18-hour shifts for two straight weeks.

"We did great work and I think the people in New York really appreciated us," relief worker Lori Ninberg.

Tiffany Pearson was accepted into the relief team a year and a half ago and this was her first assignment. She is also seven months pregnant.

"It was good for my heart and what's good for my heart is good for the baby," she said.

Pearson added, "I was able to help people find their homes – which was pretty cool – and be able to get home, so it was… a great experience."

The workers spent about 10 days helping crews with Orange & Rockland Utilities restore power and repair infrastructure in Warwick, N.Y., and moved over the weekend to help Consolidated Edison workers near Yonkers and the Rye Reservoir area of Westchester County, said Jim Valentine, SDGE's construction and operations manager.

The storm, which had been Hurricane Sandy just before it made landfall Oct. 29 in New Jersey, killed at least 113 people in the northeast, caused widespread damage and cut power to as many as 8.6 million customers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to request about $30 billion in federal aid.

Valentine said that when they relocated to Yonkers, they joined 600 linesmen from as far away as British Columbia, Canada. According to Con Edison, only some scattered outages remain in its service area.