WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Guard units in several states from the south and Midwest, to the northeast, along a 1,500-mile icy swath of this latest winter storm, were called to action helping clear snow and assist stranded motorists, among other missions over the last couple of days.
A report from the National Guard Coordination Center notes that close to 600 Guard members from Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia are supporting response missions to this winter storm the media has named Thor.
Response missions have run the gamut of providing personnel, transportation and equipment directly assisting state agencies, to rescuing stranded motorists and clearing roadways.
“Conducting a third winter storm response in three weeks is unique,” said Col. Jim Hawkins, Alabama National Guard director of military support. “However, it is well within our capabilities.”
CNN reported Wednesday that weather forecasters expected close to 100 million people would be impacted by the storm, with heavy snow falling in the middle of the Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley, the central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic. These include portions of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In Arkansas, local media reported over 120 Soldiers and Airmen and over 60 vehicles were placed on state active duty on Wednesday, ready for 24-hour operations to assist state police on highways. The teams are positioned in counties from the central to the northern part of the state.
In addition to the teams in place around the state, some Soldiers and Airmen are on duty providing coordination, command and control, and administrative support at the subordinate command headquarters as well as the Arkansas National Guard’s Joint Operations Center.
Two companies of the Kentucky National Guard were deployed to help rescue or assist hundreds of motorists on I-24 between exits 16 and 35, and on I-65 near Elizabethtown, according to local media reports. Guard units were reported to be working along Kentucky highways to move stranded drivers to a safe location, said a report on The Weather Channel.
In an interview with CNN about their effort to rescue stranded motorists, Hilbrecht assured drivers that Guard members were on their way. “Hang tight, we are coming,” he said in the report.
Tennessee Army and Air Guard members continued their work with state and local responders in recovery efforts in the wake of the severe winter weather that has impacted this state over the last couple of weeks.
Just two weeks ago, about 20 members of Tennessee’s Army National Guard 194th Engineer Brigade were called out to perform health and wellness checks on motorists in response to rapidly deteriorating road conditions on two major interstates.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen damage this extensive as a result of a winter storm, or any storm for that matter, my entire life,” Maj. Colby Tippens, operations officer for the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment’s 2nd Squadron, told Clarksville Online.
On Monday, March 2, local media also reported that the Tennessee National Guard provided 12 military dump trucks with crews from both the Army and Air Guard to assist in debris removal in four counties.
The latest order from the state’s emergency officials directed units to prepare for additional house-to-house welfare checks, provide trucks and crews to assist with debris removal, and man chainsaws to assist in clearing tree and branch-choked roads.
In West Virginia, local media reported Wednesday that more than four dozen Guard members have dispersed across the state to help with flooding and to prepare for the expected snow.
The Virginia National Guard said Thursday it had over 70 Soldiers staged and ready at facilities in northern Virginia, southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley to respond to potential flooding from melting snow, clear road blockages, as well as provide mission command and logistical support for the operations.
Those activated included 60 Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Stanton and at least a dozen Soldiers from the 1030th Transportation Battalion in Gate City. Forces were alerted late Wednesday afternoon.
“The National Guard always stands ready to assist their citizens and Governors with storm response,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Mewes, NGCC team chief.