Guard Members in Two States Prepare for Rising Rivers
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 16, 2008 More than 600 National Guard members in Illinois and Missouri are continuing sandbagging operations along the Mississippi River today in an effort to thwart the flood waters that are subsiding in Iowa.
Soldiers from 1138th Transportation Company, based at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., fill sandbags June 15, 2008, in Clarksville, Mo., an area expected to get more flood water this week. Photo by Gary Stevens, Missouri National Guard
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Illinois and Missouri rivers flow into the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis. Flooding on those rivers is not as bad as the record levels of 1993, according to local news reports. In St. Louis, flood waters are expected to crest at 39.4 feet June 20, about 10 feet below the 1993 record.
In Illinois, 400 Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized over the weekend to work on the levees north and south of Quincy, Ill. About 100 Air National Guard personnel from 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, and 126th Air Refueling Wing from Scott Air Force Base were mobilized yesterday and directed to the Sny Island Levee, which stretches for more than 50 miles in Adams and Pike counties.
The soldiers and airmen are expected to fill 500,000 sandbags today as they help fortify levees along a 15-mile stretch on their side of the swollen Mississippi River near Quincy.
"Guardsmen are working with local volunteers, Illinois Emergency Management Agency personnel, local authorities and other state agencies making heroic efforts to protect critical infrastructures and lives," said Army Maj. Gen. William Enyart, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "[We] have the full support of the governor, state legislators and federal official in coping with the largest flood since the record-breaking flood of 1993."
Enyart said more National Guard troops are available if needed.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has declared 15 Illinois counties as disaster areas.
"We're at a very critical juncture in the fight against the Mighty Mississippi, and I am committed to providing every possible state resource we can to help protect these threatened communities," Blagojevich said. "In addition to our many National Guard troops and other personnel and assets already in the region, I am encouraging my state agency directors to allow their employees who are certified as American Red Cross volunteers to help out during this emergency. We all need to pull together and help our fellow Illinoisans during their time of great need."
In Missouri, about 200 soldiers are monitoring the levees in Canton and West Quincy and sandbagging in Canton, Hannibal and Clarksville. Liaison officers are working with officials in Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike and Lincoln counties.
An additional 65 soldiers will be mobilized today to support the communities of Clarksville and Hannibal, said Army Capt. Tammy Spicer, the state public affairs officer. Missouri National Guard units supporting the flood response efforts include 1438th Engineer Company from Macon and Kirksville, 1138th Transportation Company from Jefferson Barracks and Centertown, 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Jefferson City, and 70th Troop Command and 1035th Maintenance Company, both from Jefferson Barracks.
"The Missouri National Guard has a trained, disciplined force ready to meet the challenge of the rising waters," said Army Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. The mobilizations are a result of an executive order signed by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt on June 11. They will remain on duty until released by local authorities and the governor.
"We remain engaged with local officials along the river, working to anticipate future needs," Spicer said.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau.)