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Guard Members Respond to Flooding in Three States

By Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., May 11, 2009 – Adverse weather is affecting Kentucky, West Virginia and Alaska, and the National Guard is helping with relief efforts there.

Flooding prompted West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III to declare a state of emergency for more than six, southern counties. Guardmembers of the 111th Engineering Brigade are helping in two of those counties – Mingo and Wyoming – where a steady rainfall combined with a recent thunderstorm has caused mudslides and flooded homes and roads. The mudslides plugged tributary runoffs, causing a fast rise in the water level. The conditions stranded many rural residents in their homes.

“This was fast-water flooding as opposed to the slow rise of a river or creek,” said Lt. Col. Michael Cadle, a spokesman for the West Virginia National Guard.

Guardmembers from the 111th Engineering Brigade are clearing roadways, sending patrols to examine access issues, and bringing provisions to residents isolated by the storm. The Guard has undertaken four Medevac helicopter flights to stranded residents in need. However, Cadle said, access is the first priority.

“We’re primarily trying to restore access to the affected areas,” he said. “Once access is restored, we’ll get into more debris clearing and transportation issues.”

Residents are grateful for the Guard assistance.

"It looks like a war zone," said Vivian Livingood, mayor of Gilbert, W.V. "Thank God the National Guard is here."

Meanwhile, more than 100 Kentucky Guardmembers are helping more than 10,000 residents left without power in the eastern part of that state after recent tornadoes and flooding. Soldiers from the 617th Military Police Company and the 201st Engineer Battalion are providing law enforcement, food and shelter assistance, and wellness checks in seven counties.

“The focus yesterday was passing out bottled water, doing welfare checks and conducting transportation for civilians,” said 1st Lt. Steven Martin, a spokesman for the Kentucky Guard.

The Alaska Guard also is responding to the flooding of the Yukon River near Eagle, Alaska, where Gov. Sarah Palin declared a state of emergency May 6. Guard personnel are being dispatched for at least 14 days with trucks carrying clean, potable water for residents in need.

(Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum serves at the National Guard Bureau).

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