USA — Guard Tackles Deadly Storms, Fires, Floods

ARLINGTON, Va., April 29, 2011 — Near­ly 3,000 Nation­al Guards­men are sup­port­ing civil­ian author­i­ties in response to a num­ber of fires, floods and tor­na­dos that have wreaked hav­oc across the coun­try, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials said today.
In the south­east­ern Unit­ed States, 1,200 Guards­men are pro­vid­ing relief fol­low­ing dead­ly storms and tor­na­dos that have killed an esti­mat­ed 300 peo­ple in six states.

Alaba­ma, the worst-hit state, has about 1,000 Guard mem­bers work­ing there. The death toll is expect­ed to increase, accord­ing to Nation­al Guard offi­cials. At least 131 peo­ple were killed in Wednesday’s storms there, with dozens more injured and up to a mil­lion res­i­dents were with­out elec­tric power. 

“I have acti­vat­ed the Alaba­ma Nation­al Guard to pro­vide assis­tance when­ev­er and wher­ev­er they are need­ed to help our local com­mu­ni­ties that have expe­ri­enced wide­spread destruc­tion,” Alaba­ma Gov. Robert Bent­ley said after declar­ing a state of emergency. 

“These Guards­men are well-trained and will take every action nec­es­sary to pro­tect lives and prop­er­ty in this emer­gency,” Bent­ley said. 

Guard mem­bers were deliv­er­ing tar­pau­lins and clear­ing roads after hun­dreds of homes and busi­ness­es were dam­aged, accord­ing to Alaba­ma Nation­al Guard offi­cials. Bent­ley has autho­rized the acti­va­tion of up to 2,000 Guard members. 

The Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice received more than 150 tor­na­do reports in the South, includ­ing more than 60 in Alaba­ma and almost 40 in Mis­sis­sip­pi. With reports con­tin­u­ing to come in, the tor­na­do out­break might be the worst since 148 tor­na­does struck 13 states in 16 hours in 1974, fore­cast­ers said. 

About 120 sol­diers were assist­ing in tor­na­do recov­ery efforts yes­ter­day in Mis­sis­sip­pi, includ­ing the clo­sure of streets and pro­vid­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions capa­bil­i­ties. A Mis­sis­sip­pi Air Nation­al Guard C‑26 Metro­lin­er fly­ing over Alaba­ma and Mis­sis­sip­pi was pro­vid­ing real-time storm dam­age video, the Mis­sis­sip­pi Guard reported. 

The lat­est response comes as hun­dreds of Guard mem­bers already were sup­port­ing wild­land fire­fight­ing efforts in Texas, respond­ing to the after­math of an Arkansas tor­na­do and bat­tling flood­ing in six states: Indi­ana, Illi­nois, Ken­tucky, Min­neso­ta, Mis­souri and North Dakota. 

About 170 cit­i­zen-sol­diers and Air Guard mem­bers were respond­ing in Arkansas after tor­na­does and high winds struck April 25, accord­ing to Arkansas Nation­al Guard offi­cials. Duties includ­ed assist­ing evac­uees, clear­ing roads, pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty and trans­port­ing water. 

Mod­er­ate to severe flood­ing has impact­ed the Red, Min­neso­ta, Mis­sis­sip­pi and Ohio Rivers, Guard offi­cials report­ed. About 1,700 Guards­men are pro­vid­ing flood relief in Mis­souri, North Dako­ta, Ken­tucky, Illi­nois and Indi­ana, accord­ing to Defense Depart­ment officials. 

Flood sup­port typ­i­cal­ly includes lev­ee patrols, quick reac­tion forces stand­ing by for res­cues, traf­fic con­trol points, sand­bag­ging, bar­ri­er con­struc­tion and oth­er duties. 

In Ken­tucky, about 125 Guard mem­bers were sand­bag­ging, erect­ing water bar­ri­ers and sup­port­ing civil­ian law enforce­ment author­i­ties in response to Ohio Riv­er flood­ing. “The Nation­al Guard is Kentucky’s home­town defense force, and as such we have 

a per­son­al stake in this fight,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward Toni­ni, adju­tant gen­er­al. “We have the expe­ri­ence and exper­tise to see this cri­sis through.” Cit­i­zen-sol­diers and Air Guard mem­bers began respond­ing to Illi­nois flood threats April 26. 

“We are still in the ear­ly stages of this mis­sion, so as always, we stand ready to answer the call for addi­tion­al sup­port if need­ed,” said Army Maj. Gen. William Enyart, adju­tant gen­er­al. “As we have dur­ing the floods of 1993 and 2008, our sol­diers and air­men are ready to assist when­ev­er and wherever.” 

In Mis­souri, more than 600 Guard mem­bers were sup­port­ing tor­na­do and flood response with sand­bag­ging, earth mov­ing and water res­cue capa­bil­i­ties. Mis­souri Guard mem­bers res­cued a fam­i­ly strand­ed by flood waters on April 26. 

“It’s been a heck of a day; it was rough,” Randy White told a Mis­souri Guard mem­ber after his son, daugh­ter-in-law and grand­chil­dren were res­cued. “It’s a good thing the Nation­al Guard is here. They did a great job.” 

“Our con­cern is for the safe­ty of the cit­i­zens,” said Army Col. Wen­dul Hagler, task force com­man­der. “This is an impor­tant mis­sion. It’s about more than a few peo­ple. It’s about the liveli­hood of an entire community.” 

Guard mem­bers also are sup­port­ing the Bor­der Patrol on the nation’s South­west bor­der, con­tribut­ing to the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon oil spill response, pro­tect­ing crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture and per­form­ing oth­er domes­tic mis­sions in sup­port of civil­ian authorities. 

Also, about 100 troops are fight­ing wild­fires in Texas, North Car­oli­na and California. 

Mean­while, more than 100,000 Guard mem­bers are either alert­ed, mobi­liz­ing, deployed or demo­bi­liz­ing for over­seas oper­a­tions in more than five coun­tries, accord­ing to Guard officials. 

(Editor’s Note: Nation­al Guard Bureau and indi­vid­ual state reports and civil­ian media con­tributed to this report.) 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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