By Master Sgt. Mike R. SmithFebruary 1, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Winter storms created dangerous conditions across the nation's midsection late last week and into the weekend, and more than 560 National Guard members were called out in seven states to deal with the mess.
Before the units were activated most were placed on standby by their state governors in anticipation of the bad weather. Emergency situations were declared by the governors of Arkansas, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Virginia.
In Virginia, more than 200 Guard members were called out on state active duty with humvees and heavy equipment to assist emergency responders. Snowfall totals of up to 14 inches were reported.
Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard spokesman, reported that Gov. Bob McDonnell visited the Guard's Joint Operations Center in Sandston, Jan. 30, to receive a briefing from Guard members involved in the response.
Elsewhere on the East Coast, the same southern storm dumped up to 13 inches of snow in North Carolina and up to a half-inch of freezing rain in Arkansas. Governors in both states declared emergencies and more than 30 Soldiers and Airmen were on duty assisting civilian emergency responders in those states today.
Weeks before those response efforts, severe winter weather blasted northern Arizona with thunderstorms, snow, rain and fog. That hampered the continued relief supply flights of Guard aircraft in reaching cutoff Indian reservations in northern areas of the state, the Arizona Guard reported.
"As weather across the state begins to clear and communities start to assess damage from this week's storms, Arizona emergency management officials continue to respond with life-saving resources for those affected by the consequences of heavy rain and snow," the Arizona Guard reported last week in a press release.
The Guard had 79 Soldiers and Airmen still on emergency duty there today, operating heavy equipment and aircraft including humvees, five-ton trucks and wreckers, among others, and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
"The Arizona National Guard is repositioning trucks, Soldiers and helicopters to transport supplies and assist local agencies and tribal nations," said officials Jan. 24.
A recent request from the Arizona Emergency Operations Center called out seven additional Guard members from the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Sky Harbor to support the storm relief efforts.
In the Midwest, Oklahoma Soldiers and Airmen were dealing with up to one inch of freezing rain that coated trees and power lines in some areas as well as dropped snow and sleet. Hundreds of auto accidents were reported. At one point, up to 82,000 homes were reported without power.
Gov. Brad Henry put the Guard on standby with a state of emergency Jan. 27, ahead of the storm. More than 200 Guard members were on state active duty shortly after, delivering food and water and cots to 23 shelters and warming shelter sites throughout the state as well as generators to water plants.
South Dakota Guard members continued their support to civil authorities from the winter storm there that brought high winds, snow and freezing rain.
Gov. Mike Rounds' office reported that "at one point in the storm, nearly 12,000 households were without power, and a water delivery system serving a three-county area that includes the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation was out of operation. The water system has since been returned to operation. As of Friday, about 2,000 people remained without electrical power."
The South Dakota National Guard today had 54 members operating heavy equipment including several dozers and wreckers in the operation as well as in other operations including search and rescue and support to civil authorities, officials said.
(Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith writes for the National Guard Bureau)