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Iowa National Guard Soldiers rescue family from icy peril during storm

By National Guard Bureau | Dec. 21, 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. - An Iowa family whose van spun off an icy road during winter storm Draco was safe in a warm hotel room thanks to Iowa National Guard members.

Michael Wilson, who was driving his family from northwest Iowa to Ohio, remembered the spin-out Wednesday night left them in a ditch about 8 miles south of Urbana.

“When we were sitting there in the ditch I did wonder how long it would be before somebody stopped,” he told WCRG-TV.

He didn’t have to wonder too long. Soon, a Guard Humvee with four Soldiers pulled up.

Sgt. 1st Class John DeVore told the station, “We got there and we knocked on the door and opened up the van and they were all smiling because we showed up.”

The grateful family has been staying in a hotel and waiting for their van to be towed from the ditch. The driver from the local towing service even drove them for groceries.

The storm, dubbed Draco by The Weather Channel in its new program to raise awareness of winter storms, dropped up to 20 inches of snow in parts of the Midwest.

At least 9 deaths were attributed to storm-related crashes, authorities said. The storm cut power to thousands of users, resulted in cancelation of several hundred holiday flights and shuttered schools and businesses.

But National Guard Soldiers in Iowa and Wisconsin was prepared.

About 133 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 77 Iowa 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.

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