ARLINGTON, Va. - As the Midwest’s first big winter storm forced road closures and shuttered schools, National Guard Soldiers were mobilized to assist in Iowa and Wisconsin.
About 166 Wisconsin National Guard members were called to state active duty and were positioned at armories in key locations around the state as a result of a state of emergency.
In Iowa, about 80 Soldiers were on state active duty, working with the Iowa Department of Transportation to assist stranded motorists, said Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard.
The storm, dubbed Draco by The Weather Channel in its new program to raise awareness of winter storms, was expected to drop up to 18 inches of snow in Iowa, according to the National Weather Service.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order Wednesday to allow state and local governments to prepare the resources they need to respond to the storm, which is projected to dump up to 19 inches of snow between Wednesday and Friday in a storm corridor spanning from south central to northeast Wisconsin.
Wind gusts up to 45 mph are expected to create near white-out conditions and snow drifts of up to four feet, resulting in degraded travel conditions.
"I issued this executive order to make sure Wisconsin is prepared for whatever this winter storm may bring," Walker said. "Mobilizing our state agency resources during this storm will ensure we leave nothing to chance when it comes to protecting the citizens of Wisconsin."
Those state agencies include Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Armories in Sussex, Oconomowoc, Portage, Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Appleton, Beloit, Richland Center and two in Madison have been selected as emergency sheltering and warming areas, as well as staging areas for Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers to respond to calls for assistance from local authorities.
Those requests would include responding to stranded motorists along routes designated by the state Department of Transportation, assisting in closing roads, and conducting welfare checks on those affected by the winter storm.
The Wisconsin State Patrol and the National Weather Service are urging people to avoid traveling.
Contributing: Wisconsin National Guard and Steve Marshall, National Guard Bureau