WMECO crews and Red Cross volunteers assisting residents in Main - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

WMECO crews and Red Cross volunteers assisting residents in Maine coming home

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

Volunteers with the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross and line workers from Western Massachusetts Electric were getting ready to head home Friday.

Both groups deployed to southern Maine to assist residents after an ice storm crippled the area last weekend.

WMECO crews left Christmas Eve as part of a contingent from parent company Northeast Utilities. Spokesman Michael Durand said the crews were being released Friday and were expected to hit the road Saturday morning.

The ice storm knocked out power to thousands of people across eastern Canada and the northern U.S. from Michigan to Maine. As of 7:30 p.m. Friday, there were still more than 4,500 customers in Maine without power.

Authorities blame the storm for 17 deaths in the U.S. and Canada.

Five members of the American Red Cross in Massachusetts deployed to Maine to assist with shelter and other needs for residents. One of the volunteers is Elaine Karalekas of Ludlow, MA.

Evelyn Sullivan, a disaster response volunteer from the Pioneer Valley Chapter, said volunteers are specially trained for these events. Volunteers can spend weeks in a disaster area.

Sullivan said volunteers and monetary donations are always needed. No two events are the same and money would help them buy supplies that are specific to the needs of their clients.

She said once power was restored and everyone had a safe place to go, the shelters would close and the volunteers would be able to come home.

Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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