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Guard Units Respond to Tornadoes, Snowstorms

By Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 8, 2008 – Nearly 300 members of the National Guard responded to call-ups from governors in seven states over the last week after tornadoes hit the South and snowstorms blanketed the West.

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Idaho Army National Guard soldiers of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion shovel snow off Timberlake High School Feb. 2 in Spirit Lake, Idaho. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Bill Muthiora

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

National Guard units responded in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee after an unseasonable string of winter thunderstorms and tornadoes charged through communities Feb. 5 and left large swaths of destruction, death and injuries.

In Kentucky, up to 139 guardsmen with 32 humvees, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, a heavy equipment wrecker, a fuel tanker and a bus deployed to tornado damaged areas.

The Kentucky Guard provided emergency power for the Muhenberg Water Company and operated a mobile command post in Muhenberg County. Soldiers of the 307th Maintenance Company supported state and local law enforcement agencies at traffic control points.

In Arkansas, Army National Guard soldiers aided victims of a devastating tornado that touched down in Atkins. Arkansas National Guard troops from the 142nd Fires Brigade were called out late Feb. 5, and reported to disaster sites in the early hours of Feb. 6.

The soldiers provided a 5,000-gallon water truck to Clinton and two 500-gallon water trailers and a generator to the Town of Mountain View. Guard aviation assets provided aerial reconnaissance for Gov. Mike Beebe and the state's Department of Emergency Management. Twenty-eight guardsmen performed search and rescue missions in Atkins on Wednesday and aided with cleanup missions, through Friday.

The Tennessee National Guard operated five UH-60s in aerial assessment missions. In addition, 24 guardsmen supported civilian emergency response agencies with debris removal. Many are currently operating from a support base and civilian shelter at the Lafayette Armory.

Additional Tennessee guardsmen are planning to supply emergency power for the Red Boiling Springs Water System and a hospital in Hartsville. Up to 150 guardsmen are also planning to support debris removal operations in Macon, Trousdale and Sumner counties.

In the West, where heavy snowfalls stranded residents and motorists, National Guard units in Wisconsin, Oregon, New Mexico and Idaho were slowing or halting their operations Friday after several days of emergency response missions.

After the winter storms stranded an estimated 800 motorists on a 19-mile stretch of Interstate-90 in Wisconsin, 68 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and airmen deployed and conducted health and wellness checks and delivered about 5,000 bottles of water and about 350 packaged meals to stranded victims. The Guard also flew aerial surveillance missions for emergency response personnel.

Thirty-four members of the Oregon National Guard cleared snow away from roadways and utilities. Soldiers were operating two Army Guard mine detectors to locate fire hydrants, water covers and pipes.

New Mexico National Guardsmen provided assistance to the town of Chama after Gov. Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency for Rio Arriba County. Twenty-seven Soldiers were assisting local residents with snow removal.

In Idaho, 63 Guardsmen deployed Feb. 2 to remove snow from the roofs of nine schools in the northern part of the state after four feet of snow crippled school systems in three counties.

(Tech Sgt. Mike R. Smith is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers of the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 142nd Fires Brigade, repair a roof damaged by a tornado in Atkins, Ark., Feb. 5, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chris A. Durney  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Tennessee National Guard soldier captures an aerial view of tornado damage in Tennessee while travelling with the governor's staff to assess the situation, Feb. 6, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Senior Master Sgt. Randy Harris   
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