News: National Guard members continue responding to year's biggest storm
Story by Tech. Sgt. Johnathon Orrell
WASHINGTON - More than 72 hours into a winter storm that halted traffic, canceled airline flights and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people from Texas to Maine, the National Guard is continuing relief operations in seven states.
Some states have already completed their missions, but National Guard members from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas still are battling the elements and long hours to ensure the safety of their citizens.
With 567 Guard members still on state active duty and 295 Guard members providing home station support, the Missouri National Guard has the largest contingency of Guard members still performing relief efforts.
Because Missouri's citizen-soldiers and airmen were pre-positioned in the areas that were expected to be hit hardest before the storm, they were ready to conduct missions as soon as help was requested, said Army Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, the Show-Me state's adjutant general.
"Gov. Jay Nixon knew this storm [had] the potential to cause major damage, so he gave us guidance to lean forward and be prepared to combat the worst,"
"By getting our troops out to their task forces early, we sent a message to Missourians that this was going to be a serious storm and that help had already arrived. Although there's no way to measure it, we know that early action saved lives."
Until the Missouri National Guard is recalled back to their home stations by the governor, they will be performing health and wellness checks and assisting state officials with stranded motorists and clearing emergency routes statewide.
Indiana still has about 400 Guard members working on highway assistance teams and will continue to transport local law-enforcement officials to emergency calls, assist stranded motorists and provide transportation to armories or warming centers.
In Illinois, Guard members have moved onto phase two of their relief operations.
In this phase, Guard members who were stationed in southern and central Illinois during phase one have been transferred to the hard-hit Chicago area, where they will continue to support the Illinois State Police in rescuing stranded motorists and other citizens in need.
In Oklahoma, where President Barack Obama made a presidential emergency declaration Feb. 2, the Oklahoma National Guard has more than 100 Guard members assisting stranded motorists and supporting generator movement operations.
More than 30 Kansas National Guard members are transporting local medical personnel to work sites and assisting stranded motorists.
The Iowa National Guard still has about 30 personnel assisting stranded motorists.
Texas has about 30 National Guard members assisting stranded motorists in Wichita Falls and Lubbock.
The Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin National Guards have completed their missions and returned back to their home stations.
At the peak of the National Guard storm response efforts, 11 states had activated or placed on standby their National Guard and more than 2,500 Guard members were on state active duty or providing support at home stations.