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Guard Floods States With Assistance as Waters Rise

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2008 – Governors in four of six Midwestern states affected by heavy rains and subsequent flooding called out more than 2,000 National Guard members this week as flood waters forced residents from their homes, left thousands without power and damaged infrastructure.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Joseph Stamm, 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry, helps residents load sandbags into their vehicle in Martinsville, Ind. Flash floods tore through the area after more than 10 inches of rain poured over the already saturated land. U.S. Army photo by Spc. William E. Henry, Indiana National Guard
  

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

The severe weather began in the region June 4 and continued for several days, with flood waters continuing to rise today. It included heavy rains, tornados, hail, severe lighting and, in one instance, nearly 11 inches of rain near the Indianapolis area within a matter of hours.

Many officials were comparing the floods to the Midwest's historic "Great Flood of 1993," which caused an estimated $15 billion in damage.

National Guard members in Indiana, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Iowa were continuing their support to civil authorities with manpower and equipment today. Helping them were additional Guard members from neighboring states.

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels called out more than 1,300 Guard members to assist in evacuations, search and rescue, security, road blocks, sandbagging, and other emergency assistance missions. President Bush declared much of central Indiana a major disaster area.

National Guard Bureau officials reported that a variety of Guard equipment was being used to assist emergency responders in Indiana and its affected communities, including 35 5-ton trucks, 37 Humvees, five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 26 potable water trailers, 17 light-medium tactile vehicles, and five buses. Still other special equipment and personnel include members of the West Virginia National Guard's 53rd Civil Support Team, as well as an RC-26B Metroliner reconnaissance aircraft.

"We are here for the citizens of Indiana," said Army Capt. Andy Weaver in an Indiana National Guard news report. Weaver and other Guard members helped evacuate at least 256 patients from a flooded hospital June 8 in Columbus. "Even though some of our soldiers have been affected by the flooding, they are here helping out the community. This is where they feel they should be," he added.

Indiana Guard members also were delivering Red Cross supplies, equipment and personnel to the town of Worthington. They delivered 7,200 gallons of water to the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency and provided self-contained shower units to the town of Hope in Bartholomew County.

In Iowa, Guard officials reported many lakes, rivers and streams were at near-record levels, flooding communities and forcing many Iowans out of their towns and homes. Gov. Chet Culver mobilized at least 640 Guard soldiers and airmen for state active duty to assist in the state's disaster response. The governor declared 40 counties as disaster areas.

The Guard members are partnering with federal, state, county and local officials in at least 11 counties and are providing generator support and emergency drinking water. Other Guard members are involved in sandbagging and transportation, as well as securing bridges.

A band of storms that moved across West Virginia on June 5 caused severe flooding that forced Gov. Joe Manchin to declare a state of emergency for at least 15 counties.

At least 97 West Virginia Guard members responded to affected areas with military dump trucks, Humvees, water supplies, backhoes and other equipment to assist residents and local responders as river levels climbed. The Guard members were removing debris with their equipment in at least five counties.

The Wisconsin National Guard mobilized at least 80 soldiers and airmen. The soldiers were providing potable water and sandbags to flooded counties. Officials reported that soldiers of 2nd Brigade were tasked to deliver 20,000 sandbags to Dodge County and the village of Mukwonago. Guard soldiers from 147th Aviation were assisting in aerial damage-assessment missions for military and state leaders. The other states flew similar aerial assessment missions for their leaders.

Army Spc. Cassandra Groce from the Kentucky National Guard reported today that an RC-26B from 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian, Miss., arrived in Wisconsin yesterday to fly over dozens of affected areas in the state to provide live video. A similar Guard aircraft from West Virginia flew missions over flooded areas of Indiana.

The capability allows engineers on the ground to plan reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and was employed after Hurricane Katrina. It was tested during last year’s Guard response to the California wildfires and is now being used for the first time in the flooded states, Groce reported.

Army Master Sgt. Paul Gorman from the Wisconsin Guard reported yesterday that 924th Engineer Detachment dispatched engineer elements to team up with civilian engineers at key damage sites in three heavily affected counties. A Wisconsin Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from 147th Aviation Battalion also provided aerial assessment, Gorman reported.

In addition, 54th Civil Support Team brought communication, liaison and combat-lifesaver capabilities to support the ground-based engineer element in western Vernon County.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau.)

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