Guard Answers Calls in Storm-battered States
May 12, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, May 12, 2008) - National Guard members in four states were called out by their governors to assist civil authorities Monday after tornados crossed the Southwest May 10 and flooding on the Delaware coast left communities in need of emergency assistance.
Since May 7, the National Weather Service has confirmed at least 42 tornados in the southern Plains and the southeastern and middle Atlantic regions of the nation with the strongest tornado recorded May 10 as an F-4. It developed from a super cell storm that tracked through three states.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported that Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina were all affected by severe weather during the weekend with at least 22 confirmed deaths, many homes destroyed and thousands of people without power. The Guard is also responding to flooded areas in Delaware after heavy rains on Mother's Day.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry called out the National Guard to assist emergency responders after five confirmed tornados touched down in the state. At least 25 Army Guard members are providing security support in the town of Picher after a F-4 tornado churned up a 63-mile swath of damage from Oklahoma to Missouri.
Soldiers are reportedly assisting local law enforcement in securing the area, which includes routes in and out of the town four miles south of the state's border with Kansas. An Army Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew is also flying aerial assessment missions for the governor.
In Arkansas, where at least two tornados touched down and tracked through the central part of the state Saturday evening, homes were destroyed in the town of Stuttgart.
"We've deployed 50 Guardsmen from the Guard's 875th Engineer Battalion," said Maj. Keith Moore, a National Guard spokesman. Moore said the Soldiers traveled from their station in Jonesboro and are providing security support at traffic control points and conducting patrols to prevent looting. The Soldiers are working two shifts during a round-the-clock operation and are expected to be on station through May 14.
The Army Guard is flying Gov. Michael Beebe and emergency management agency personnel on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter out of Camp Robinson to assess damaged areas.
"This is one of the key roles of the Guard, being a dual mission force, that we are here to support our local communities, respond to the governor," said Moore.
After severe storms and tornados swept through southwest Missouri, nearly 20 Army Guard Soldiers deployed on state active duty to support Gov. Matt Blunt in his emergency response efforts for the towns of Newtonia and Grany. The Soldiers are assisting local law enforcement agencies with security. Eight Soldiers and two military vehicles deployed to each town.
In Delaware, tidal flooding and heavy rains led to Guardmembers deploying in six light medium tactical vehicles, know as LMTVs, and one 2.5-ton truck to assist in flood evacuations at South Bowers Beach, Kitts Hummock Beach, Woodland Beach and Slaughter Beach.
"The LMTVs can carry up to 15 people and have a high ground clearance, which allows them operate in up to four feet of water," said Lt. Col. Len Gratteri, Delaware National Guard spokesman. Gratteri said the state's Guardmembers are deployed from the 262nd Maintenance Company, the 261st Signal Brigade and the 72nd Troop Command.
The Delaware Guard is coordinating emergency assistance through the state's emergency management agency with its Joint Operations and Emergency Operations Centers. A shelter area is also setup in Kent County.
(Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau. Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill also contributed to this report.)