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Guard Members Respond to Holiday Storms

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

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 29, 2009 – More than 100 National Guard soldiers and airmen responded over the holiday and through the weekend to support callouts by governors in four Midwest states hit by severe winter weather.

The National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., reported that Guard members were first summoned to preposition equipment in preparation for the storm, which produced blizzard conditions in some areas and deposited record-breaking snow and ice throughout much of the nation.

Some areas closed roadways and airports. News agencies reported that at least 21 deaths were caused by roadway accidents. Localized power outages occurred and many holiday travelers were stranded at shuttered airports and slowed by snow-covered roads and accidents.

Texas officials reported that Gov. Rick Perry activated state resources, including Texas National Guard personnel, high profile vehicles and other resources to assist motorists and communities in Lubbock and the surrounding area.

Officials at the Texas Joint Forces Headquarters reported that at least 36 Guard members supported local responses to road closures, accidents and power outages in areas including Lubbock, Post and Wichita Falls.

In Nebraska, Guard members helped local emergency medical personnel access hard-to-reach areas in Lincoln by providing and operating four-wheel-drive Humvees.

At least 18 Oklahoma Guard members on Christmas Day patrolled interstates to transport stranded travelers to safety after record snowfalls closed major highways and roadways throughout the state Dec. 24.

In South Dakota, Gov. Mike Rounds declared a state of emergency Dec. 22, and at least 90 Guard members helped prepare their state for storm response.

In addition, Army Guard search and rescue crews searched for missing people in Colorado and Maryland.

Colorado Guard members flew an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter to assist emergency responders looking for two skiers in Lake County. Officials reported that the skiers were found and transported to a local command post where they were treated for cold weather injuries.

Guard Bureau officials reported that Maryland Guard members flew an OH-58 to assist emergency responders searching for an 11-year-old girl who was reported abducted from her home Dec. 25. The crew was released by the Wicomico County Sheriff that day.

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

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