ARLINGTON, Va. – Thousands of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen responding to Hurricane Ida in Louisiana have rescued hundreds of people, cleared roads and distributed food and water to victims of the devastating storm.
More than 5,400 Guardsmen from 11 states were in Louisiana Wednesday, assisting first responders with 36 aircraft, 74 boats, 198 high-water vehicles, generators and engineers. By Thursday, the force will swell to more than 8,000 Guard members, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Wednesday.
"Here at home, the National Guard continues to live up to its promise of Always Ready, Always There," he said.
Guard members conducted search and rescue sweeps across 31 parishes, rescuing more than 393 people and 60 pets by Wednesday and clearing 403 miles of routes clogged with debris. The Louisiana National Guard's 922nd Engineer Vertical Construction Company, with the St. John the Baptist Sheriff's Office and Louisiana's Wildlife and Fisheries, evacuated about 135 people and four dogs who had been trapped by flooding in LaPlace.
Guardsmen opened 17 locations to distribute food and water to people in need in nine parishes, with plans to operate 40. Another 400 Guard members were assisting law enforcement with security in New Orleans and six parishes.
"This is definitely one of those situations when the going gets tough, the tough have to get going," Maj. Gen. Lee W. Hopkins, Louisiana’s assistant adjutant general, told reporters. He said the Guard anticipated handing out millions of meals and millions of bottles of water.
About 4,300 members of the Louisiana National Guard were assisting with relief efforts, along with Guard members from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Texas. National Guard units from 15 states had committed to help, Hopkins said, with many others offering assistance.
In addition, Guard members in many states were also responding to flooding in their local communities as Tropical Depression Ida moved north.
The hurricane came ashore in south Louisiana Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph and heavy rainfall, causing catastrophic flooding and damage. Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana and Mississippi remained without power Wednesday.
"This is what the National Guard is for," said Col. Bob Walter, commander of the Oklahoma National Guard Joint Task Force. "Our organization is proud to help our neighbors in need, just as we did for both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey, and just as other states have done for us."
Hopkins said he anticipated peak Guard operations in Louisiana for two to three weeks. Once power and water are restored and stores reopen, the Guard could begin ramping down its presence to a smaller force.
"Our Soldiers and Airmen have been doing remarkably hard work. ... We have a lot left to do to recover," he said.