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Local volunteers to help storm victims

At least a dozen Western New Yorkers have been deployed by the American Red Cross to the Atlantic coastline to assist with Tropical Storm Irene relief efforts.

The storm, which was downgraded from hurricane status Sunday, pummeled North Carolina and Virginia before weakening, and initial reports indicated that New York City and areas north might have been spared from the worst effects of the storm.

Still, many are left homeless or stranded due to extreme flooding downstate and elsewhere. The Red Cross has camps set up for people up and down the Eastern Seaboard, said Jay Bonafede, a local spokesman.

"There's definitely going to be a need for volunteers for a while given the amount of damage up and down the East Coast," Bonafede said.

One of the locals on the scene is Ken Turner, who arrived in New York City on Friday to begin setting up relief camps.

"Right now we're identifying shelters and safe havens and getting staffs together so we can deal with power lines being down and trees that have fallen," Turner said in a phone interview from a Red Cross camp in Greenwich, Conn., just outside New York City. "There are many roads that are not passable, and we're just trying to meet the immediate emergency needs of individuals."

A group of five volunteers left from the Red Cross on Delaware Avenue for New York around noon Sunday. Janet Bartee of Kenmore, Janet Cox of Buffalo and Marieanna Elliot of Hamburg expected to help treat emotional trauma. Bradley Pettit of Lancaster and Peter Swales of Springville were going to help with general care at the shelters.

"It's a pretty emotional event if you lose property or personal items in a storm like this, so [the Red Cross] tries to offer help when we can," Bonafede said.