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NEWS | April 29, 2014

National Guard members respond to tornadoes in southern states

By Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - In the deadly aftermath of severe storms that struck earlier this week, about 300 men and women of the National Guard - in coordinated efforts with civilian agencies - are responding to communities in several states.

In Arkansas, storms hit hardest in the communities of Mayflower and Vilonia.

"We currently have 59 Guard members responding to tornado damaged areas," said Army Maj. Matt Snead, public affairs officer with the Arkansas National Guard. "We also have 22 Humvees [and several other vehicles and equipment] in use, and we are providing a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Camp Robinson."

Snead said in addition to injuries and the death of an Airman with the Arkansas Air National Guard, several Guard members have lost homes, businesses and other personal property.

"The communities of Mayflower and Vilonia are not very far from Camp Robinson and Little Rock Air Force Base," Snead said, "so we have a lot of our Guard members that live in these two communities."

To date this year, the Arkansas National Guard has performed approximately 103 missions, such as manning traffic control points, presence patrols, search and recovery operations, water distribution and access control in response to severe weather.

Guard members are also responding in other states as a result of the severe weather.

In Mississippi, severe storms swept across Mississippi and several tornados caused devastating damage to Lee County, near Tupelo, in the northern part of the state.

"We have approximately 50 Guard members in that area responding to tornado damage," said Tim Powell, the public affairs officer for the Mississippi National Guard.

"Additionally, we have another approximate 50 Guard members in Winston County near Louisville in the eastern part of the state," Powell added. "There was very extensive tornado damage there, and efforts have been shifting from search and rescue to recovery."

Powell said other missions being conducted by Guard members there include traffic control, checkpoints, presence patrols, and assisting local law enforcement as needed.

"Today, we are utilizing UH-72 Lakota helicopters for aerial damage assessment and we're also providing some medical evacuation support in Winston County," Powell said. "We're working with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency the Mississippi Department of Transportation for aerial damage assessments."

In addition to the UH-72s, Powell said aircrews in a C-26 Metroliner aircraft would also be taking real-time video aerial footage for damage assessment purposes.

"The tornados were widespread," Powell said, "and the men and women of the Mississippi National Guard responded very quickly and professionally."

In Tennessee, 20 Tennessee National Guard members are responding to storm damage, and approximately 100 Alabama National Guard members are on standby pending any further severe weather in Alabama, said Guard officials. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the number of Guard personnel increased to about 70 in Arkansas and about 115 in Mississippi, according to figures from the National Guard Bureau.