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FEMA Stages Storm Relief Supplies At WMass Air Base

Storm relief supplies are being shipped from a staging area in western Massachusetts to areas of New England that sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy.   WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports

The Westover Air Force Reserve Base in Chicopee Massachusetts is the primary staging area for the federal government’s coordinated response to the storm in New England.  Cots and blankets were trucked south to Connecticut  Monday to stock shelters. A shipment of water and meals was to follow today, according to Bryan Toman, of FEMA.

30 people, mostly from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now stationed at the staging area set up  on a taxiway in one of the far corners of the sprawling air base. They traveled in ahead of the storm from as far away as Washington State.  Toman is from Florida.

Some 70 trailor truck loads of supplies, including water, meals, blankets, cots and  large electric generators also arrived at the base  48 hours ahead of Sandy. Toman said more relief supplies are in the pipeline should the initial shipments not be enough.

Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal visited the base  Tuesday for a briefing on the storm response.

Prepositioning of storm relief supplies is one of the lessons learned from Katrina

President Obama signed an emergency declaration to expedite federal disaster relief

This is the third time Westover has been used as a FEMA staging area in advance of a hurricane. It was used previously for both Earl and Irene, according to Robert Perrault, who is in charge of emergency management for the base

Perrault said Westover was advised last Thursday that it would be used again as a FEMA staging area.

As the relief supplies were being  delivered by truck to Westover, the base evacuated most of its fleet of C-5 planes to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to ride out the storm.  Lt Col. James Bishop said the evacuation was prompted by forecasts for wind gust up to 57 miles per hour

The base sustained no damage during the storm.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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