By Lt. Col. Ellen KrenkeFebruary 2, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2009) - One week after a major ice storm that stretched from the Ozarks through Appalachia, three states are still recovering with the help of the National Guard.
Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri still have troops on duty clearing debris and conducting welfare checks, and they are getting help from neighboring states as well.
In Kentucky, the state's entire Army National Guard and about 325 Air National Guard members have been activated for a total of 5,000 in what has been described as the largest call-up in state history.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release that he made the decision to ensure the safety and well-being of Kentucky's citizens after a storm that left about 700,000 residents without power and paralyzed the western part of the state.
"It's going to be a long haul for us," he told the Associated Press on Sunday as he toured the state. "We've thrown everything we have at it. We're going to continue to do that until everyone is back in their homes and back on their feet."
The Kentucky Guard is also providing communications support, engineering capability, power generation, security and aviation recovery missions as well as distributing food and water.
Through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request, the Florida Air National Guard will provide six Regional Emergency Response Networks, which is a communications system operated by a four-person team, and the Tennessee National Guard will send 30 Humvees to help with the storm response. More Humvees are expected to come from other states today.
According to the National Guard Bureau, the Kentucky Guard has distributed about 100 generators throughout the state.
Beshear said the storm was the biggest natural disaster to ever hit the state. The Associated Press reported that the storm knocked out power to 1.3 million customers from Texas to Maine, including 700,000 in Kentucky and 300,000 in Arkansas.
In Arkansas, almost 1,000 Guardmembers are currently working in nine counties across the northern third of the state. They are being deployed in 50-man teams to support local authorities.
One such team was sent to Marmaduke, Ark., to clear debris from the roadways, while others went door-to-door to notify the residents of a boil order in the area.
During the door-to-door visits, Soldiers encountered a single mother and her children who had been stranded with nothing to eat for a number of days, according to a news release from the Arkansas Guard. The Soldiers provided the family with their own food and water and notified community leaders for further support.
The Arkansas Guard has also provided power generation, cots and blankets, emergency shelter, fuel, water, shower systems, radios and chainsaws.
Capt. Chris Heathscott, the state public affairs officer, said the Guard's missions are expected to continue until the power companies restore power to the affected communities.
In Missouri, about 400 Guardmembers have been sent to 10 counties to support the needs of the communities in the southeast part of the state.
"The service of our Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen in southeast Missouri continues to be invaluable in this recovery effort," said Gov. Jay Nixon.
In addition to route clearance and welfare checks, the Guardmembers have provided transportation support as well as 15 trucks of water, three trucks of cots and two trucks of blankets in Jefferson City, Mo. Two, five-ton trucks were sent to Poplar Bluff, Mo., to distribute food and water in the area.
"While Missourians continue to be affected by this devastating storm, your Missouri National Guard works alongside communities to help citizens get the help they need," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
Danner and the governor visited the affected areas over the weekend. "During our visit to the area yesterday, my heart went out to those families affected by the devastation," Danner said. "But as bad as the devastation is, the local communities are working nonstop to ensure their citizens get the help they need.
"The Missouri National Guard is proud to be a strong part of that help," he said.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office.)