Guardsmen Help States Hit by Double Whammy
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2002 About 1,700 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard troops were on duty on October's first Friday helping their fellow citizens dig out from Hurricane Lili, the second major storm to hit the Pelican State in as many weeks.
Some troops, barely dried out from Tropical Storm Isidore, which flooded coastal sections of the state about a week earlier, volunteered to help with Lili, said Army Guard Maj. Ed Bush.
More than three times as many troops were needed to operate heavy trucks and other engineer equipment and fly a fleet of 10 helicopters for Lili than had been the case for Isidore, Bush explained. That's because Lili was a Category 2 hurricane packing 100 mph winds when it hit the state's coastal region on Thursday.
Lili had been classified as a Category 4 storm, with winds of 145 mph, before reaching Louisiana, and it was downgraded to a tropical storm after hitting Marsh Island in the middle of the state's Gulf Coast.
The Guard troops were split into two task forces on Wednesday before the storm hit, said Bush. "This is a chance for these people to make a direct impact on the communities where they live."
About 500 Louisiana troops had been placed on state active to support civil authorities with Isidore, which had flooded New Orleans with a lot of rain but did relatively little wind damage.
More than 200 Texas Army Guard soldiers took up positions in Houston because of Lili, but their services were not needed because the storm did not wallop that part of the country, reported Texas Army Guard Lt. Col. Robert Luna.
Louisiana citizen-soldiers used their big trucks to evacuate as many as 600 residents from Montegut, southwest of New Orleans, the Associated Press reported, and there were times when at least one truck driver did not know where a flooded road was. His buddies waded through waist- deep water to lead the driver along the road.
Guard troops hauled electrical generators and drinking water to areas, Bush added. Overall, Lili knocked out the power to an estimated half-million homes.
Army Guard helicopter crews flew Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives over the flooded coastal parishes or counties, so they could assess the damage, the Guard spokesman reported.
(Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office, Arlington, Va.)