Guard responds to hurricane aftermath
Rescue operations are just one type of mission the National Guard will undergo during Hurricane Earl and its aftermath. (File photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 2, 2010) -- National Guardsmen in states all along the East Coast are preparing for whatever Hurricane Earl sends their way this Labor Day weekend.

"Every state along the East Coast from North Carolina to New England is trying to figure out what this storm is going to do," said Jack Harrison, director of communications for the National Guard Bureau. "In advance of that, each state's National Guard is preparing for what may eventually come from the storm."

The National Weather Service has listed Earl as a Category-4 hurricane. It is expected to reach the North Carolina coast by late Thursday and early Friday.

The storm is expected to pick up speed as it gets closer to the East Coast shore and to speed through Maine by Saturday morning.

"The key along the Eastern Seaboard is identifying the assets available should they be needed to respond," Harrison said. "If the storm stays real close to the coast and produces high winds, they will need high water vehicles and engineers. The states are identifying those capabilities."

In North Carolina, about 90 Guardsmen on state active duty will report to the Edenton Armory tonight, said Maj. Matt Handley, the state public affairs officer. Another 150 will be on standby.

The North Carolina Guard also reports it will have plenty of manpower ready along with equipment, including two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, to help supply food and water.

"Mainly, we use transportation and then we use kind of our most versatile, the combat soldiers can be used for route clearance, chainsaw crews and things like that if they are needed," Handley told local media earlier this week.

More than 200 Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia Guard were placed on state active duty today for possible post-storm recovery operations should Hurricane Earl impact the Hampton Roads area, said Cotton Puryear, the state public affairs officer.

The Guardsmen will begin staging Wednesday night and will be ready Thursday morning to support potential response missions before Hurricane Earl reaches the Virginia coastline, Puryear said.

Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in Virginia today, which authorizes state agencies to take precautionary action to prepare for any potential impacts in eastern Virginia from the hurricane.

The declaration also authorizes the adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard to call up those assets he thinks are necessary to fulfill missions after the storm impacts Virginia.

"We are staging personnel, vehicles and equipment in Hampton and Norfolk to support missions such as high-water transport and light debris removal," said Col. Jeff Hice, the joint operations officer for the Virginia Guard. "The key to rapid response for this event is having personnel in place and ready to respond before the hurricane moves into the region."

Soldiers from the Hampton-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team and Airmen from the Virginia Beach-based 203rd RED HORSE Civil Engineering Squadron will provide personnel and equipment for the operation.

High-water missions may include transportation, rescue and debris removal, Guard officials said.

The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Hice said.

"If the hurricane causes any conditions where people need assistance, they should request assistance through their local dispatcher or 911 service, not directly to the Virginia Guard," he said. "When appropriate, the request for assistance will be forwarded to us for action."

Harrison encouraged state residents to listen to local authorities during an emergency. "They should also prepare for the potential of this storm to get closer to the coast than what is being forecasted," he said.

The District of Columbia and Maryland National Guard report that they have aviation assets on standby for possible missions.

In Delaware, Guard officials expect the storm to effect coastal areas in Sussex County. No state of emergency has been declared, but the state continues to monitor the storm.

Air Force Maj. Lisa Ahaesy, the state public affairs officer for the Massachusetts National Guard, also said no Guardsmen have been called up at this time, but they will continue to watch the storm.

In Rhode Island, Army Maj. Gen. Robert Bray, the state adjutant general, participated in a press briefing this afternoon with the state's governor and other cabinet directors to discuss Hurricane Earl and its potential impact on the state.

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke writes for the National Guard Bureau)

Page last updated Thu September 2nd, 2010 at 16:37