Cleanup continues on East Coast nearly one week post-Sandy

MILWAUKEE -- Sunday, November 4th marked just under a week since "Superstorm Sandy" struck the nation's East Coast, and the cleanup has only just begun. The storm caused massive devastation and  flooding and led to power failures in 17 states. Nearly a week later, some have finally been able to make contact with loved ones.

Flooded substations, fallen trees and downed power lines left more than 8.1 million homes and businesses in the dark. Nearly one week later, restoration efforts have cut that number almost in half.  

“The power companies out there have made substantial progress,” We Energies spokesperson Cathy Schulze said. Schulze said that's mainly thanks to crews from across the country that have headed to the east coast to help -- including crews from Wisconsin.

Milwaukee-area We Engergies crews left Wednesday, October 31st to assist with power restoration in storm ravaged areas in Michigan. Saturday, the group headed to the hardest his areas in New York.

"They arrived (Saturday) night around 9 or 10 o’clock after 13 hours in the car all day. They’re in a staging area with hundreds of other utility workers from all over the county taking part in this massive restoration effort. The folks we have on the ground in New York City are line mechanics. They’re people who go up in the bucket trucks and help with power restoration,” Schulze said.

Katie French is a Marquette University student from the East Coast. French's mother connected with her daughter via Skype and French finally got a glimpse of the devastation Sandy left behind back home.

"You see the devastation and what people are going through. It's unbelievable. We have utility trucks from as far away as Illinois and Michigan coming in to help get people back on the grid again," French's mother, Lori Beekman said.

Beekman is in Long Island. When Sandy hit, an enormous Oak tree was uprooted -- barely missing Beekman's home. Others weren't so lucky.

"We have a friend who's parents lost their house completely on the south shore. Five-and-a-half feet of water," Beekman said.

Meanwhile, French's father has stepped up to help -- renting out about 400 generators in the tri-state area.

"We've been parking generator sets at business, factories, hospitals and a lot of nursing homes," Patrick French said.

French told FOX6 News for some folks, the need for power is a matter of life and death.

"There hasn’t been any let up in the need for temporary power. We put two generator sets at a hospital on Roosevelt Island (Saturday). That hospital is filled with people with disabilities," French said.

Those assisting hope the extra help will expedite getting those on the East Coast back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Between contractor crews and utility workers, We Energies has dedicated more than 100 people to restoration efforts. They plan to stay on the East Coast as long as the help is needed.

Beekman says it's the attitude of the people that will get them through such a trying time.

"We're New Yorkers and we have that mentality and spirit, and we come back and we rebuild," Beekman said.

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