Guard Aids New Orleans Evacuation, Braces for Storm Mission
American Forces Press Service
BATON ROUGE, La., Aug. 31, 2008 With the full force of the Louisiana National Guard activated, more than 7,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen are assisting local authorities with evacuation and security efforts in New Orleans and performing dozens of other missions across the state as Hurricane Gustav approaches. As the Guard and the state brace for the powerful storm, each day brings new challenges that all agencies involved must work together to overcome.
“Louisiana citizens and our governor needed the Guard, and we were there immediately, redirecting hundreds of troops to assist New Orleans with their evacuation plan,” Army Maj. Gen. Bennett C. Landreneau, Louisiana’s adjutant general, said.
Guard soldiers began patrolling the streets of New Orleans yesterday, assisting with security as the area began evacuating citizens. They were scheduled to begin helping the state police with “contraflow” operations today, a process that converts normally inbound roads to handle outbound evacuation traffic.
About 400 National Guard soldiers and airmen are driving buses, transporting citizens to shelters across the state.
In other areas, convoys carrying more than 900 soldiers from the 225th Engineer Brigade arrived in Lake Charles, Napoleonville, Iowa, Breaux Bridge, Lake Charles and Rayne yesterday to assist civil authorities with evacuation and security of citizens moving from southwestern Louisiana on contraflow routes.
“One of our greatest strengths is that we are citizen-soldiers and live in the communities we serve, Landreneau said. “We are able to transition from our civilian careers to military roles quickly when called upon.”
The activation of the 225th Engineer Brigade calls into service soldiers who are responsible for boat search-and-rescue missions, engineer assessment teams that will deploy to support coastal parishes, security teams and contraflow support.
As the Louisiana Guard activation has reached full potential, officials have called on sister states to support additional requirements created by Gustav’s landfall, expected tomorrow afternoon. Battalions from Kentucky and Tennessee and 28 aircraft arrived in Louisiana yesterday, thanks to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual-support agreement among states.
A Guard military intelligence battalion already serving in hurricane operations has provided a Spanish-speaking soldier to relocate to New Orleans and assist residents in understanding instructions being given by the governor and other agencies.
In an advisory issued at 1 p.m. EDT today, the National Weather Service said Gustav was 270 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving toward the northwest at 17 mph. Though maximum sustained winds had dropped to 115 mph with higher gusts, forecasters said, it could regain Category 4 status tonight or tomorrow. A Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 131 to 155 mph.
Members of the Louisiana Air National Guard medical team assist a special-needs resident at the Union Passenger Terminal Station in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2008, as she prepares to be evacuated prior to the arrival of Hurricane Gustav. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael L. Owens, 241st Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
(From a Louisiana National Guard news release.)