By National Guard BureauDecember 7, 2007
VERNONIA, Ore. (Army News Service, Dec. 7, 2007) -- The Oregon National Guard this week assisted in the rescue of between 200 and 400 residents of the coastal town of Vernonia, Ore., after heavy rains Sunday and Monday caused extensive flooding.
The Oregon National Guard mobilized the 125th Special Tactics Squadron Dec. 3 to assist first responders in Vernonia.
Due to extreme weather conditions and obstacles on the ground, rescue by air was too risky, officials said. The 125th STS, with support from the 141st Support Battalion, arrived in Vernonia overnight and quickly deployed four Zodiac boats. Making their way through the flooded streets and residences of Vernonia, the National Guard members brought welcome relief.
The Oregon National Guard continues to support response and recovery efforts in the wake of sever winter storms that struck the Pacific Northwest, officials said.
Areas hardest hit by the storm have asked for generators, water, and assistance with getting supplies. The Guard is working closely with state agencies and private organizations like the Red Cross, officials said, to move equipment and supplies to where they're needed most.
Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski said the state will support first responders and assist with providing immediate needs such as medical care, shelter and food. In addition, he noted that schools which were partially submerged by record floodwaters in Vernonia will need a great deal of assistance during the recovery process if they are to continue providing educational services to their students.
This is an overview of the type of support the Oregon National Guard has provided or continues to provide to areas suffering from the effects of recent winter storms:
- Rescue operations on the water by Zodiac boats (Vernonia) and from the air by UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters (southwest Washington)
- Transporting Red Cross supplies to the Columbia County Emergency Operations Center
- Overnight shelter to about 50 people at Camp Rilea and meals to approximately 160 people throughout the day
- Transportation support with high-profile vehicles
- Transportation and maintenance of two 60KW generators to Vernonia
- Transportation for veterinarians in Columbia County/Vernonia
Oregon Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski and other state officials visited coastal towns in the northwest part of the state hit hard by widespread flooding.
They arrived in Vernonia via an Oregon Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and spoke with residents and town officials affected by heavy rains which pounded the Oregon coast earlier this week.
"I will make requests to FEMA, and get a hold of a Congressional delegation, because (recovery efforts) will be ongoing," the governor said, during a press conference held at the Oregon Army National Guard aviation facility following the group's return to Salem.
Both the governor, and Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, deputy director, State Affairs for the Oregon National Guard, lauded the quick response of local and state agencies. They pointed to the recent inter-agency emergency exercise, TOPOFF 4, held in mid-October, in helping prepare rescue and relief agencies for such a disaster.
The Oregon National Guard in particular, said the governor, is very good at conducting relief efforts.
"But now we're doing a great job at recovery," he added.
Several Oregon National Guard units are currently dispersed throughout the hardest-hit communities on the Oregon coast, helping with relief efforts.
(Information provided by National Guard Bureau news releases.)