National Guard Battles Ice Storm Aftermath in Three States
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 2, 2009 Residents of three states still are recovering with help from the National Guard a week after a major ice storm that stretched from the Ozarks through Appalachia.
Soldiers from the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team clear debris from the roadways in Marmaduke, Ark., Feb. 1, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Chris Heathscott
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri still have troops on duty clearing debris and conducting welfare checks, and they are getting help from neighboring states as well.
In Kentucky, the state’s entire Army National Guard and about 325 Air National Guard members have been activated, for a total of 5,000 soldiers and airmen in what has been described as the largest call-up in state history.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release that he made the decision to ensure the safety and well-being of Kentucky's citizens after a storm that left about 700,000 residents without power and paralyzed the western part of the state.
“It’s going to be a long haul for us,” he told the Associated Press yesterday as he toured the state. “We’ve thrown everything we have at it. We’re going to continue to do that until everyone is back in their homes and back on their feet.”
The Kentucky Guard also is providing communications support, engineering capability, power generation, security and aviation recovery missions as well as distributing food and water.
Through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request, the Florida Air National Guard will provide six regional emergency response networks, -- communications system operated by four-person teams -- and the Tennessee National Guard will send 30 Humvees to help with the storm response. More Humvees are expected to come from other states today.
National Guard Bureau officials said the Kentucky Guard has distributed about 100 generators throughout the state.
Beshear said the storm was the biggest natural disaster ever to hit the state. The Associated Press reported that the storm knocked out power to 1.3 million customers from Texas to Maine, including 700,000 in Kentucky and 300,000 in Arkansas.
In Arkansas, almost 1,000 Guard members are working in nine counties across the northern third of the state. They are being deployed in teams of 50 to support local authorities.
One team was sent to Marmaduke, Ark., to clear debris from the roadways, while others went door to door to notify the residents of an order to boil water before consuming it.
During the door-to-door visits, soldiers encountered a single mother and her children who had been stranded with nothing to eat for a number of days, according to a news release from the Arkansas Guard. The soldiers provided the family with their own food and water and notified community leaders for further support.
The Arkansas Guard also has provided power generation, cots and blankets, emergency shelter, fuel, water, shower systems, radios and chainsaws.
Army Capt. Chris Heathscott, the state public affairs officer, said the Guard’s missions are expected to continue until the power companies restore power to the affected communities.
In Missouri, about 400 Guard members have been sent to 10 counties to support the needs of the communities in the southeastern part of the state.
“The service of our citizen-soldiers and -airmen in southeast Missouri continues to be invaluable in this recovery effort,” Gov. Jay Nixon said.
In addition to route clearance and welfare checks, the Guard members have provided transportation support as well as 15 trucks of water, three trucks of cots and two trucks of blankets in Jefferson City, Mo. Two 5-ton trucks were sent to Poplar Bluff, Mo., to distribute food and water in the area.
“While Missourians continue to be affected by this devastating storm, your Missouri National Guard works alongside communities to help citizens get the help they need,” Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, Missouri adjutant general, said.
Danner and the governor visited the affected areas over the weekend. "During our visit to the area yesterday, my heart went out to those families affected by the devastation," Danner said. "But as bad as the devastation is, the local communities are working nonstop to ensure their citizens get the help they need.
“The Missouri National Guard is proud to be a strong part of that help," he said.
Missouri National Guard units supporting the mission are: 35th Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood; 1138th Engineer Company of Farmington; Headquarters Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion of Cape Girardeau; 880th Engineer Company of Perryville; Forward Support Company 1140th Engineer Battalion of Cape Girardeau; 205th Military Police Battalion of Poplar Bluff; 735th Quartermaster Company of DeSoto, Poplar Bluff, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau, Rolla and Jefferson Barracks; 220th Engineer Company of Festus; 935th Aviation Support Battalion of Springfield; 276th Engineer Company of Monett and Pierce City; 294th Engineer Company of Carthage and Anderson; 1138th Military Police Company of West Plains and Springfield; 1137th Military Police Company of Kennett, Jackson and Doniphan; 1175th Military Police Company of St. Clair and St. Louis; 1035th Maintenance Company of Jefferson Barracks; 1140th Military Police Company of Fulton and Columbia; 131st Fighter Wing of St. Louis; and Joint Force Headquarters of Jefferson City.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)