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Monument rangers assist with hurricane cleanup
December 06, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis

Photo by Elizabeth Gross/Gering Citizen
Patty Bean and AJ Legault with the Scotts Bluff National Monument were in New York last month as part of the relief effort after the east coast was hammered by “super storm” Sandy.


When “super storm” Sandy hammered the east coast and displaced millions of people, volunteers from across the country, including the National Park Service, were there to help with the recovery effort.

Patty Bean, public information officer with the Park Service, said she noticed the stark contrast between areas with and without electricity as they flew into New York.

“I’ve been to New York many times and this wasn’t normal.”

AJ Legault, law enforcement ranger with Scotts Bluff National Monument, also noticed that entire cities and neighborhood were just black. “It was kind of an eerie feeling seeing all that darkness, knowing there was a lot people in that darkness,” he said.

Both Bean and Legault were in New York in early November, along with rangers Ken Haberman and Ken Wolfe. They helped in securing the 15 national parks and monuments in the area.

“That storm hit from the Carolinas to Maine,” Bean said. “It was the millions of people affected that made it a major disaster.” With no street lights, police were on every corner to manage traffic and watch out for crime.

“The thing that struck me was that everybody was so supportive of each other,” Bean said. “Everyone was cooperating because they know they were all in this together.”

About 115 national parks sent about 530 of its personnel to volunteer. One-third of the Scotts Bluff permanent staff were mobilized for the recovery effort.

Legault said he was first assigned to an airfield to guard fuel pods that were set for delivery to gas outlets throughout the area. He also helped escort fuel trucks on delivery routes.

Later, Legault was assigned to patrol Fire Island, which was under an evacuation order. With only emergency personnel allowed on the island, Legault helped watch for looting and other unauthorized access.

And during his time on Fire Island, where was no power. “I was impressed with how many people were thanking us for helping,” he said. “It dispelled any negative stereotypes people have heard about New York.”

Bean said that because of previous experience, she ended up on the multimedia team that kept video records of the recovery work and of the damage caused by the storm. For the first three days, their work was done without the aid of cell phone or computer service.

“There were a lot of marathon runners there for the upcoming New York Marathon,” Bean said.

“They were also upbeat about the situation and had a “we can do this together’ attitude. After the marathon was cancelled, many of the runners stayed and volunteered to help. I was impressed by that.”

She added the Park Service, the City of New York and other agencies will be updating their emergency preparedness manuals in light of the data they’ve gathered from this storm. “We’re reassessing the need to have plans that can be easily implemented when the next storm happens.”
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