Chicago area volunteers prepare to help with Hurricane Florence relief efforts; Evacuees arrive at O’Hare

LOMBARD, Ill. -- As Hurricane Florence prepares to bear down on the Carolinas, volunteers in the Chicago area are preparing to help in the relief efforts.

As the East coast readies for Florence’s arrival, her reach is already extending to Chicago. Extensive Power outages are expected and ComEd, as part of a mutual aid network, is at the ready.

Cheryl Maletich specializes in emergency preparedness at ComEd which has been in tracking the forecast for almost a week now. The crews are at the ready to jump in and help to restore power.

“I would anticipate this week and once it really hits land and then they know how much devastation they have,” she said.

In the hyperactive hurricane season of 2017, ComEd sent about 500 crews and hundreds of trucks in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Crews arrived by truck to Florida and by boat to Puerto Rico and tagged along with a ComEd crew on the island. Logistics are challenging to say the least. As it relates to the current preps and evacuations of Florence, the Chicago Chapter of the Red Cross has deployed 17 volunteers to North Carolina and more are leaving on Thursday.

For Susanne Peters, this will be her fourth foray into the chaos of a super storm where nothing is certain except why she does it in the first place.

“I love helping people. It feels good to know I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life,” she said.

The life of a disaster volunteer is certainly a road less travelled and every bit as challenging as a ComEd linemen. But each as critical as the other as they help people make it through whatever Mother Nature is about to serve up with their own gas in tow.

As volunteers head east, some evacuees have already arrived at O’Hare International Airport seeking safe harbor.

One family came to Chicago from Durham, N.C. Chris, London and Emma Burnham said said they didn’t want to take any chances.

“It’s scary,” Emma Burnham said. “I don’t know what I’m going back to honestly. Hoping for the best.”

It’s not the ideal trip, but the Burnham family got to see their grandma. The Burnhams have been down the hurricane road before. They said their grandmother was born between two hurricanes in Florida.