Guard members respond nationwide to callouts during holiday
December 28, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2009) -- More than 100 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen responded over the holiday and through the weekend to support callouts by governors in four Midwest states hit by a string of severe winter weather.
The National Guard Bureau reported that Guard members were first called out to preposition equipment in preparation for the storm, which evolved to blizzard conditions in some areas and dropped record-breaking snow accumulations and ice throughout the nation's center.
Some areas closed roadways and airports, and news agencies reported that at least 21 deaths were caused by roadway accidents. Localized power outages darkened holiday decorations and many travelers were held short of their destinations, stranded by snow-covered roads and accidents.
Among the Guard's response and equipment, Texas officials reported that Gov. Rick Perry activated state resources, including Texas National Guard personnel, high-profile vehicles and other resources to assist motorists and communities in the Lubbock and surrounding area.
This severe weather system created dangerous conditions for drivers, said Perry in a press release on Christmas Eve.
Officials at the Texas Joint Forces Headquarters reported that at least 36 Guard members supported local responses to road closures, accidents and power outages at areas including Lubbock, Post and Wichita Falls.
In Nebraska, Guard members helped local emergency medical personnel access hard-to-reach areas in Lincoln by providing and operating four-wheel-drive Humvees.
At least 18 Oklahoma Guard members on Christmas Day patrolled interstates to transport stranded travelers to safety after record snowfalls closed major highways and roadways throughout the state Dec. 24.
In South Dakota, Gov. Mike Rounds declared a state of emergency Dec. 22, and at least 90 Guard members helped prepare their state for storm response.
"If you can leave ahead of the storm and get where you are going, great,'' Rounds said Tuesday. "If you can't, it's better to be safe than stranded somewhere. The best gift to give your loved ones is to be safe."
South Dakota Guard members prepositioned military equipment and delivered firewood to three Native American reservations.
In addition to these Midwest storm responses, Army Guard search and rescue crews in two other states searched for missing people in Colorado and Maryland:
Colorado Army Guard members flew an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter to assist emergency responders looking for two skiers in Lake County. Officials reported that the skiers were found and transported to a local command post where they were treated for cold weather injuries.
Guard Bureau officials reported that Maryland Guard members flew an OH-58 to assist emergency responders searching for an 11-year-old girl who was reported abducted from her home Dec. 25. The crew was released by the Wicomico County Sheriff that day.
On average, on any given day, 17 governors call out their National Guard to help citizens in need.
(Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau.)