ARLINGTON, Va., June 15, 2010 — More than 400 National Guard members from three states have been called up for flood duty after heavy rains and snow run-off caused cresting rivers this week, officials said.
The governors of Wyoming, Nebraska and West Virginia have declared states of emergency and called in the Guard to help in protecting people and their property. In Wyoming, the number of Army and Air Guard members on state active duty increased from 250 to 400 today.
“The main concern continues to be the Freemont County area,” said Diedre Forster, public affairs officer for the Wyoming National Guard. “There is other flooding going on in various other areas of the state, and we’re keeping our eye on them, but Freemont County has been the only place we have been called on to assist.”
Christian Vanhuizen, incident command public information officer for Wyoming, said several rivers are expected to crest by June 18 and that floodwaters likely will continue for some time. “Personnel are providing flood mitigation efforts, such as filling and stacking sand bags, as well as helping [civilians] leave their homes in times of instability,” he said. “We are also working with local law enforcement agencies, providing security in flood-damaged areas and restricted areas.”
He added that precipitation is expected to continue in the form of more thunderstorms and snow in the higher elevations.
“Last week’s flooding was caused by a large melting snowpack up in the mountains,” Vanhuizen said. “A cold front that passed through the mountains late last week stopped the run-off from the melting snowpack, but also brought with it about two more feet of snow. That’s what we are bracing for right now, and some of the rivers are showing slight increases and we expect those to continue throughout the day.”
In Nebraska, the Guard responded to requests from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to assist with damage assessments after recent statewide flooding.
“The flooding in our state covers a large geographic area and varies in severity,” said Army Lt. Col. Bob Vrana, public affairs officer. “There are about 60 counties that have been impacted in one way or another, and 44 of those have requested assistance from the state at this point.”
He said about 10 soldiers are assisting the Nebraska EMA with damage assessment and mission analysis.
“Some of those 10 are staffing the emergency operations center, acting as liaisons between the Nebraska National Guard and the emergency management agency,” Vrana said. “We’re working in conjunction with a number of state [and federal] agencies, and we have the resources to provide more assistance if the conditions worsen.”
Vrana said that the damage has been to county roads, bridges, homes and ranches.
In West Virginia, Guard officials said soldiers were called in to help with debris removal that resulted from the severe storms.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)