National Guard Continues Fighting Rising Mississippi
June 17, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, June 17, 2008) - National Guard troops in Illinois and Missouri continued sandbagging operations along the Mississippi River Monday in an effort to thwart the cresting floodwaters heading south from Iowa.
More than 80 of Iowa's 99 counties have been declared state disaster areas and more than 4,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been activated there for flood response. Additional Soldiers are being redirected from other annual training missions in Iowa, officials said, to assist with flood operations.
About 300 Soldiers are assisting in sandbagging and security of the power station in Burlington, Iowa. In Des Moines, about 40 Airmen are providing security near the Birdland levee break, and in Cedar County, Soldiers are helping to secure bridges. About 150 troops are assisting the Cedar Rapids Police Department with security, traffic control points and traffic patrols.
Soldiers are providing emergency water distribution to residents in Columbus Junction and other Iowa towns. Troops are providing drinking water to Mercy Hospital in Iowa City and hauling fuel to University Hospital there which has been on auxiliary power for several days.
Chinook helicopters are being used to move water pumps as Soldiers continue to pile sandbags in a number of cities, including Fort Madison, Iowa City and Kingston.
Soldiers are using sandbags in an effort to protect the Iowa City water treatment plant and critical electrical substations in Iowa City, Coralville and Hills. About 50 Soldiers are assisting in sandbagging of the water treatment facility in Keokuk, Iowa.
In Illinois and Missouri, more than 600 National Guard members continued piling sandbags in communities along the rising Mississippi River.
The Illinois and Missouri rivers flow into the Mississippi just north of St. Louis. Unlike 1993, flooding on those rivers has not been as high as the record set 15 years ago. St. Louis floodwaters are expected to crest at 39.4 feet on Friday, which is about 10 feet below the record set in 1993.
In Illinois, 400 Soldiers and Airmen were mobilized over the weekend to work on the levees north and south of Quincy, Ill. About 100 Air National Guard personnel from the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill., the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria and the 126th Air Refueling Wing from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., were mobilized on Sunday and directed to the Sny Island Levee, which stretches for more than 50 miles in Adams and Pike counties.
Soldiers and Airmen were expected to fill 500,000 sandbags Monday as they helped fortify levees along a 15-mile stretch on their side of the swollen Mississippi near Quincy.
"Guardsmen are working with local volunteers, Illinois Emergency Management Agency personnel, local authorities and other state agencies making heroic efforts to protect critical infrastructures and lives," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "(We) have the full support of the governor, state legislators and federal official in coping with the largest flood since the record-breaking flood of 1993."
Enyart said more National Guard troops are available if needed. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has declared 15 Illinois counties as disaster areas.
"We're at a very critical juncture in the fight against the Mighty Mississippi, and I am committed to providing every possible state resource we can to help protect these threatened communities," Blagojevich said. "In addition to our many National Guard troops and other personnel and assets already in the region, I am encouraging my state agency directors to allow their employees who are certified as American Red Cross volunteers to help out during this emergency. We all need to pull together and help our fellow Illinoisans during their time of great need."
In Missouri, about 200 Soldiers are monitoring the levees in Canton and West Quincy and sandbagging in Canton, Hannibal and Clarksville. Liaison officers are also working with officials in Clark, Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike and Lincoln counties.
Missouri National Guard units supporting the flood response efforts include the 1438th Engineer Company (Bridge) from Macon and Kirksville, the 1138th Transportation Company from Jefferson Barracks and Centertown, the 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion from Jefferson City and the 70th Troop Command and the 1035th Maintenance Company, both from Jefferson Barracks.
"The Missouri National Guard has a trained, disciplined force ready to meet the challenge of the rising waters," said Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
These mobilizations are a result of an executive order signed by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt on Wednesday. The troops will remain on duty until released by local authorities and the governor.
"We remain engaged with local officials along the river working to anticipate future needs," Spicer said.
(Lt. Col. Ellen G. Krenke of the National Guard Bureau was a major contributor to this report, along with a news release from the Iowa National Guard.)