ARLINGTON, Va. — Guard members throughout the East Coast are making preparations to respond to potential flooding resulting from Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 hurricane currently churning its way through the Caribbean. Forecasted to gain strength over the next 48 hours as it moves in a steady northwestern track, the storm is predicted to take one of several paths that will take it along the North Carolina coast and potentially into the Mid-Atlantic states Sunday or early next week.
While the center of the storm may not make landfall, according to the National Weather Service heavy rains and gusty winds will likely be prevalent over the next few days causing the potential for severe flooding, especially in low-lying and coastal areas.
Areas of southwest Virginia have already experienced flooding as a result of continuous rain over the past few days, which may make matters worse as Joaquin nears the coast. Though no Virginia National Guard units have been called out in response to the flooding, officials with the Virginia Guard said they are in the planning stages to determine how to best provide support and assistance to the citizens of the state should they be needed.
Virginia Guard officials said in a news release that up to 800 personnel will be mobilized by as early as Friday night.
Guard officials throughout the potentially affected areas have been coordinating with state and local authorities as they track the storm's progress.
"We're seeing what support the (New Jersey Office of Emergency Management) may need as the storm gets closer," said Kryn Westhoven, with the New Jersey National Guard.
Meanwhile, in New York, Guard officials are working with local authorities to finalize staff action plans to facilitate the quick response of New York National Guard members should they be needed, said Army Col. Richard Goldenberg, with the New York Guard, adding that the New York Guard already has a number of mission requirements pre-programmed into their response plans.
Both New York and New Jersey were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, which saw Guard members in both states assist with high-water rescues, distribute fuel, food and water, clear debris, provide security and communications and a variety of other missions.
Guard members from other states also responded in the wake of Sandy through use of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows the governor of an affected state to request Guard assistance from nearby states and could be used should Joaquin cause significant damage. As of Thursday, governors in Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency. Such declarations put state emergency plans into effect, enabling agencies to better coordinate resources jointly and respond to requests for state assistance from county emergency managers. Through use of the EMAC, nearly 460,000 Guard members from throughout the country are available to support response operations.
As the storm nears, Guard members may start staging equipment and making other preparations in order to rapidly deploy in support of state and local authorities, said Guard officials. Should they be called upon, Guard members could perform evacuation and search and rescue operations, logistics support missions, provide security and a variety of other missions.