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Iowans head south to support Floridians after Hurricane Ian destruction

From blood drives to helping to restore power, Iowa organizations are heading south to help.

FLORIDA, USA — As Hurricane Ian continues to move north, Iowans are heading south to help Floridians put the pieces back together. 

Among those Iowans are close to 200 linemen from IBEW Local 55, a line construction union.

"Most of those crews went down and staged in and around the Orlando area," said Cody Eigenheer, construction representative for Local 55.

He noted because Florida received so much flooding, his men are still waiting for their orders, but the Local 55 crew is prepared to assist the best way they know how.

"They're going to change out poles that are broken, they're going to change out the wire that's broken, and they're going to change new transformers so guys can get power," Eigenheer said. "They're going to do anything and everything to get power back to the people."

Eigenheer said his men are well equipped to help in the aftermath of a hurricane because it's something they've done before. Recently, members of Local 55 aided in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona. 

Eigenheer said helping out down south is the least Local 55 could do, since other linemen from across the country did the same for them when the derecho hit in 2020.

"Any time we get a chance to go help people in their time of need and their devastation and get their power put back on quicker and also put their minds at ease, it's a really good feeling for anybody," Eigenheer said.

Local 55 isn't the only organization rushing to aid Floridians. 

"[MidAmerican Energy] agreed to send about 80 crew members," said Geoffrey Greenwood at MidAmerican Energy. "That includes linemen, that also includes support crews, such as supervisors and safety people and logistics people to accompany them."

The American Red Cross of Central Iowa drove multiple truckloads of relief supplies, including blankets and cots, before the storm hit.  

"In addition to those supplies, we also sent... several 100 units of blood, a lot of it being Type O, that universal blood type, to make sure that there's a continuity of care for the people of Florida," said Emily Holley with the Red Cross.

Holley also said they have up to 500 Red Cross volunteers on the ground right now in Florida and Georgia. 18 of those volunteers are Iowans. 

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