Alabama National Guard Assists Elba Flood Victims
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 1998 "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" That was the cry of people in the southeast Alabama city of Elba when El Nino-induced floods devastated the area, said Alabama National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. James Atchison.
When El Nino unleashed disastrous rainfall and massive flooding in Elba March 8, the Alabama Army and Air National Guard was called out to take fresh drinking water into the area, Atchison said.
"Guardsmen also assisted with evacuation of persons in flooded streets using Army Special Forces 'Jon Boats' and local watercraft," he said. "Our emergency operations center in Montgomery opened at 2:30 a.m." Guardsmen began evacuating and rescuing Elba citizens shortly thereafter.
Six National Guard armories opened to provide shelter for people driven from their homes by floods. The Guard and other emergency facilities sheltered nearly 500 people, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency figures. Nearly 25,000 meals were served to flood victims.
As of March 19, nearly 450 Army and Air National Guardsmen completed more than 100 missions assisting victims of the Elba flood, Atchison noted.
"The National Guard has been essential in the post-disaster security and protection of the city of Elba," said Paul K. Martin, recovery center manager for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "They were also helpful by pitching in on clean-up, general labor and the stocking of donated supplies.
He said, the city of Elba has also received truckloads of donated supplies from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; and Fort Rucker, Ala.
Martin said 19 single family homes were destroyed and 569 damaged. Forty mobile homes were destroyed and another 117 damaged.
Atchison said Alabama Army and Air National Guardsmen have responded to 14 major disasters during the last six years.
Additionally, Atchison added, more than 50 guardsmen helped transport 44 30- and 60-kilowatt generators from armories and bases throughout the state to Montgomery for shipment to New York in January. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard transports flew the generators to New York. The equipment powered water and sewage systems, health care facilities, schools, fire and police stations and emergency shelters serving nearly 75,000 residents and businesses in northern New York.
"Alabama National Guardsmen have assisted other states in the past during emergencies," Atchison said. "During the 1993 floods in Iowa, members of the Alabama National Guard took reverse osmosis water purification units to Des Moines and provided water for residents, hospitals and nursing homes." He said Iowans sent hay and grain to Alabama cattle ranchers during a five-day blizzard in 1993.