2012 Tornados
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2012 Tornado Responses

Tornadoes: "The deployment of the National Guard was one of the most timely ... I've ever seen"

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. (3/5/12) – More than 700 National Guard Citizen-Soldiers and – Airmen were supporting civilian authorities in four states recovering from tornadoes and floods this morning –troops who arrived on-scene within a few hours of the storms.

Civilian authorities in both Indiana and Kentucky – two of the most severely affected states – noted how fast the National Guard had boots on the ground, which emergency managers said was the result of years of relationship-building and partnership before the natural disaster hit.

"The deployment of the National Guard was one of the most timely deployments of Guardsmen I've ever seen," said Kentucky State Trooper Capt. Scott Miller. "The Soldiers were ready to go within hours."

Numbers of Guard members helping civilian authorities peaked at more than 800 on Sunday, and this morning there are still 390 Guard members providing presence patrols and traffic control points in Kentucky; more than 70 distributing water and conducting presence patrols in Indiana; more than 100 providing security in Missouri and more than 140 removing debris after flooding in West Virginia. Presence patrols provide security to affected citizens and their devastated communities.

All four states declared states of emergency after tornadoes that struck on Leap Day and on March 2 in the Midwest and South and heavy rains that drenched West Virginia on Feb. 28. Severe storms affected multiple states from late on Feb. 28 through March 3, National Guard Bureau officials reported. The storms left severe damage in their wake in numerous Midwest and Southeast counties.

At least 39 people died, many more were injured and towns were destroyed, civilian media reported.

Tornado forecasting has significantly improved with the deployment of Doppler radars nationwide, The Washington Post reported. With warnings of potential deadly tornadoes days before the storms hit, state National Guard leaders were ready to respond.

"I've never seen anything as devastating as I saw today," Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said after a March 3 damage survey in a Kentucky National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. "I'm very proud of the Kentucky National Guard and how quickly they respond."

One example of how Guard members are helping: Kentucky National Guard members helped civilian rescuers and firefighters free two employees trapped in a Salyersville, Ky., auto parts store.

"It feels a lot safer having … the Kentucky National Guard provide a presence here in our community," said Kenna Spears, who works in Salyersville.

"This is one of the things you sign up for, both defending the country and the citizens of our state," said Army Sgt. Brandon Lewis, on duty in Missouri after a yearlong tour in Afghanistan.

"The Guard is crucial to what we do," said Stephanie Robey, manager of the Kentucky Department of Emergency Management's recovery branch. "Our partnership is crucial to protecting public interest, people and property."

Said Robey, "You can always depend on the Guard."

Compiled from National Guard Bureau and Kentucky and Missouri National Guard reports.