National Guard responds to Hurricane Irene

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John OrrellSeptember 29, 2011

National Guard responds to Hurricane Irene
Virginia National Guard Soldiers in Sandston prepare for possible duty in response to Hurricane Irene by unloading pallets of cots and Meals Ready to Eat. The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 300 personnel on state active du... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 26, 2011) -- As of 11:30 a.m. EST today, the governors of seven states had declared states of emergency, prompting National Guard adjutants general to upgrade Hurricane Condition levels and relocate assets in preparation for Hurricane Irene, Guard officials said today.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Virginia declared states of emergency, allowing them to use state resources such as their National Guard, with about 101,000 Guard members ready to assist potentially affected East Coast states if called upon by their governors.

In North Carolina, the National Guard has about 40 personnel activated for state active duty and an emergency operations center communicating with the governor and the state emergency management office.

Irene was 490 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and is anticipated to make landfall on Saturday.

North Carolina Guard officials said the Guard is ready to answer the call, as they have many times before.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell authorized about 300 Virginia Guard members to be activated Thursday. About 50 have already responded with the other 250 being alerted and expected to respond tonight.

"We will be staging personnel, vehicles and equipment to support missions such as high water transport and recovery, light debris removal and route clearance," said Army Col. Gerald Catrett, director of operations for the Virginia National Guard.

"It is critical for us to have personnel in place and ready to respond before severe weather hits so we can rapidly respond when called," he said.

Delaware is at Hurricane Condition three and will evacuate 13 aircraft, both Air and Army, to avoid damage, but no personnel evacuations are in the plans.

Army Maj. Gen. Francis Vavala, the adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard said they are prepared to provide 200 Guard members within hours of request by the governor and up to 500 personnel can be called upon after 48 hours.

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are all preparing for the worst and are ready to respond when called upon by their governors, Guard officials said.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, Puerto Rico was picking up the pieces and the National Guard had about 330 personnel activated to assist with the cleanup.

They are using landing craft and providing transportation for citizens with special needs, military equipment and heavy equipment to and from Vieques Island.

"This is the only National Guard [unit] that has this type of boat, and we are proud about that," said Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Vicens, adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

National Guard officials continue to monitor Irene.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell writes for the National Guard Bureau)

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