Washington, DC – The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency yesterday as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast. The storm is forecast to make landfall along the Atlantic coast Sept. 13 as a major hurricane.
North Carolina will place 320 National Guardsmen on state active duty to integrate into NC Emergency Management’s disaster response plan, National Guard Bureau officials said. There are 7,000 additional North Carolina guardsmen ready to mobilize when called to state active duty by the governor. The North Carolina National Guard’s first priority is safeguarding the lives and property of its state’s citizens, officials said.
National Guard capabilities to support North Carolina in the aftermath of a hurricane include stranded motorist and flood victim rescue using high-water clearance vehicles, warehouse and supply transport, shelter support, food and water distribution, communications support, road closure support and helicopter aquatic rescue teams, officials said.
As of this morning there were about 2,000 South Carolina Army National Guardsmen on state active duty, as well as about 50 airmen, and they will remain on duty as long as needed, according to Army Lt. Col. Cindi King, the director of public affairs for the South Carolina National Guard.
Immediate missions will include aerial and ground support for the South Carolina Highway Patrol if lane reversals are issued and security and assistance for law enforcement officials.
The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on state active duty for possible assistance with the state’s response operations for Hurricane Florence, according to National Guard Bureau officials. Gov. Ralph Northam has authorized up to 6,000 personnel for response operations and those individuals are alerted and on standby.
Potential missions for the Virginia National Guard include high-water transportation, debris reduction, commodity distribution, shelter management assistance and rotary-wing aviation search and rescue, the officials said.
The Virginia National Guard plans to stage personnel at readiness centers in key locations throughout the commonwealth in order to be ready to rapidly respond if needed, National Guard Bureau officials said. Additional soldiers, airmen and Virginia Defense Force members will be on duty in Richmond and at Fort Pickett to provide mission command, logistics, administrative and public information support.
The Maryland National Guard is ready to support the governor, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and other partner agencies as they prepare for, respond to and recover from the effects of Hurricane Florence, National Guard Bureau officials said. The Joint Operations Center is manned around the clock, and they are in constant contact with MEMA, ready to respond as needed.
“Military organization and training enables unsurpassed capabilities at home in times of large-scale emergency or disaster response,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Burkett, vice director of domestic operations and force development for the National Guard Bureau. “In other words, the experience and education acquired by National Guard personnel significantly benefits the sense of urgency for us to provide our unique capabilities in times of disaster.”