Guard Response Grows After Massive Storm
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 About 2,500 National Guard members now are conducting relief and rescue operations in nine of the 30 states affected by the blizzard conditions and severe winter storms covering an almost 2,000-mile stretch of the country.
Army Staff Sgt. Vince Rutter of the Missouri National Guard performs maintenance checks on tactical vehicles to make sure they are mission-ready, Feb. 1, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Jennifer Archdekin
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Since Jan. 31, the governors of Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have declared states of emergency, with the National Guard activated in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.
The Indiana National Guard has 667 Guard members operating from 44 armories throughout the central and northern parts of the state and along the Interstate 70 corridor, performing highway assistance missions, transporting civilians to safe areas and responding to emergency calls.
If they’re needed, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will call up an additional 189 soldiers and airmen for state active duty for the severe weather response, the Indiana Guard reported.
In Illinois, 500 National Guard members are activated, and Gov. Pat Quinn has mobilized additional resources from the Illinois National Guard to ensure safety as the state continues its response to severe winter weather. Quinn –- in consultation with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois State Police -– has ordered National Guard soldiers to provide direct transportation to Illinois State Police troopers, Guard officials reported. He also relieved the soldiers of their previous mission of manning the more than 20 rest areas from Interstate 70 near St. Louis and northward to Chicago.
The Illinois Guardsmen also relayed information on road conditions, vehicle accidents and stranded motorists to Illinois State Police officers conducting roving patrols.
Early estimates yesterday evening indicated more than 50 motorists were assisted, but Illinois National Guard and Illinois Emergency Management Agency officials said those estimates probably are low, because not all of the assistance is being documented, given the nature of the mission.
"Our main goal is to assist civil authorities helping motorists and those in need,” said Army Maj. Brad Leighton, director of public affairs for the Illinois National Guard. "Our mission is to protect and serve our fellow Illinoisans.”
The Illinois Guard troops will report to Illinois State Police district stations with Humvees and other all-terrain trucks, and will transport state troopers as they assist stranded motorists.
Many Guard members will be shifted from the southern part of the state to the most severely affected northern communities, officials said.
The Missouri National Guard has activated more than 600 soldiers and airmen spread over three task forces for emergency missions throughout the state. They’re making door-to-door safety visits, providing critical infrastructure power generation, helping stranded motorists, conducting presence patrols and clearing emergency routes to support first responders.
The Missouri Guard also has sent liaison officers to emergency operations centers.
ABC affiliate KMBC-9 in Kansas City reported that Missouri National Guard members assisted in the delivery of a baby early this morning. Two Guard members used Humvees to transport an ambulance crew to a rural home where the ambulance could not travel, the television station reported, and then transported the pregnant woman to a hospital in time for the birth of the baby.
In Oklahoma, about 100 Guard members are working with the Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol to assist stranded motorists, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is using the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City for equipment staging.
About 75 Wisconsin National Guard members are deployed to armories across the state to assist local and state authorities with weather-related emergencies. The deployment was in response to Gov. Scott Walker's state of emergency declaration, which directs all state agencies to assist with response or recovery efforts and authorizes Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, the adjutant general, to mobilize Wisconsin Guard soldiers and airmen.
"The National Guard's dual mission makes us uniquely suited for emergency response," Dunbar said. "We are trained and equipped to answer the call and meet the needs of Wisconsin citizens. Support to civilian authorities is a core mission of our soldiers and airmen. When the state needs us, we're there."
Guard members assigned to tactical vehicles reported to armories in Plymouth, Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Kenosha, Sussex, Elkhorn, Watertown, Janesville and Platteville on Jan. 31, where they’ll remain through the state of emergency or until released.
Those armories will be available for use as back-up emergency shelters, and the soldiers will stand by to support local authorities with operations such as door-to-door safety visits, generator assistance or stranded-motorist support.
The Iowa National Guard has about 30 Guard members supporting the Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa State Patrol on highway assistance missions.
The Texas National Guard has about 30 Guard members assisting stranded motorists in Wichita Falls and Lubbock.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback joined Army Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general, at a news conference to update the state's response to the winter weather. Tafanelli said the response is a coordinated effort that includes the Kansas National Guard, Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Environment and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Kansas National Guard has 16 Guard members and four Humvees deployed to transport medical personnel to and from hospitals, he said. He added that additional Guard members are assisting the Highway Patrol in rescuing stranded motorists and clearing vehicles from the roadway. Several armories are open as shelters.
In Arkansas, the National Guard has about five Guard members transporting supplies from Little Rock to the Washington County emergency management facility in Fayetteville in case they’re needed.
Pennsylvania has about 400 National Guard members on standby, but no mission requirements had been assigned as of last night.