BERWYN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On Thursday morning, 40 local PECO employees stocked up on supplies and began their two-day journey to Texas. Their goal is to assist the hundreds of thousands of people without power after Hurricane Laura slammed the Gulf Coast.
"It's a relationship we have with other utilities," said PECO spokesperson Greg Smore. "Basically one utility can help another if they aren't impacted by any type of severe weather. So it's really a hallmark of the electric utility industry to make sure we're able to provide resources in a time of need for another company if they need it."
The assistance trip is expected to last two weeks and is led by Jonathan Frissora. He said he has completed multiple domestic and international assistance trips.
"I'm excited to be able to jump for the call to action even though the COVID-19 pandemic," said Frissora. "I think we have a special job, a special craft that through any pandemic, through any major event, we can still mobilize as a team, as a company and do what we need to do."
Forecasters warn the storm surge from Hurricane Laura could submerge entire towns, with growing concern that wide areas will be without power for weeks or even months. That's where the PECO crews step in.
"Obviously we're in the time of a pandemic," said Smore. "People are very reliant on power so it's critical that we're able to lend a helping hand at a time when people might need it the most."
Given the pandemic, crew members will be driving separately, stopping in Virginia and Alabama before arriving in Texas.
"Now its different where its spread out, things are different, people look different, it's all wearing masks all day so the world is changing," said Frissora.
Crews will start in Texas but depending on the damage and the need, they could move further along the coast.
The Red Cross is working to shelter as many evacuees as possible into hotel rooms.
"The way we shelter, the way we do business, obviously have to change. We've done it with blood drives and will certainly do it with disaster relief operations, said Guy Triano, Regional CEO of Red Cross.
Rose Kehoe-Troilo from Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania is volunteering with Red Cross. She waited out the storm in Lumberton, Texas.
"You heard the howling of the winds, and the rain hitting the windows really hard. I'm sure there was hail, but I wasn't able to look out the window because there's so much rain coming down," said Kehoe-Troilo.
Now she and others are awaiting assignments to assess damage and help evacuees.
"It's scary not being in your home during a storm. So we try and be there any way we can," she said.
The relief effort trips will last about two weeks for both Red Cross and PECO volunteers.