By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell of National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 - In response to blizzard conditions and strong winter storms across a third of the country, six governors have declared states of emergency and about 1,100 National Guard members from 11 states have been activated or are on standby, National Guard Bureau officials said.
As of 6 p.m. EST yesterday, the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin had declared states of emergency, and the Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin National Guard had activated.
Meanwhile, Guard members in Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania were on standby, officials said.
A day after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, the Missouri National Guard called up more than 600 soldiers and airmen to conduct emergency missions throughout the state. The Missouri Guard members will be spread over three task forces, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general, said.
"Our force is seasoned by dozens of overseas deployments and 18 state emergency missions since 2005," Danner said. "Our citizen-soldiers and airmen are ready to protect their fellow Missourians in their time of need, whether they are conducting door-to-door safety visits or clearing critical paths for emergency vehicles so first responders can do their jobs."
Soldiers and airmen with Task Force East, based in St. Louis; Task Force Northwest, based in Kansas City; and Task Force Southwest, based in Springfield, are making door-to-door safety visits, providing critical infrastructure power generation, helping stranded motorists, conducting presence patrols and clearing emergency routes to support first responders. The Missouri Guard also has sent liaison officers to emergency operation centers.
Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has activated more than 500 Illinois National Guard members to help stranded motorists. They will be stationed at rest areas along Interstate 70 and other highways and will coordinate with the Illinois State Police to ensure the safety of travelers stranded along the roads.
"We must do everything we can to keep motorists safe during this massive winter storm," Quinn said. "Illinois Department of Transportation crews are working nonstop to clear roadways, and the Illinois State Police will also be closely monitoring our highways. These troops from the Illinois National Guard will help ensure public safety along the roadways, and I urge everyone to exercise caution when traveling."
Guard members stationed along the highways will provide water, snack bars and roadside safety tips to stranded motorists and will relay information regarding road conditions, vehicle accidents and stranded motorists to state police officers.
"I'm proud that the Illinois National Guard is able to play our part in responding to this winter storm," said Army Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, Illinois adjutant general. "Our soldiers and airmen respond to the governor's call to help in state emergencies, just as we answer the president's call to serve overseas. It takes selfless citizens to serve in today's National Guard –- whether in Illinois or across the world."
In Arkansas, the National Guard has about five Guard members transporting supplies from Little Rock to the Washington County emergency management facility in Fayetteville in preparation for any needed assistance.
The Indiana National Guard had not yet been activated last night, but about 875 Guard members were on standby. About 30 members of the Iowa National Guard are helping stranded motorists.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency, which activates the disaster response and recovery portions of the Kansas Response Plan, which authorizes state resources and funds to expedite emergency assistance statewide, including the National Guard.
In Oklahoma, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is using the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City for equipment staging, but no National Guard personnel are anticipated to be used to support this FEMA mission assignment, officials said.
The Texas National Guard has about 30 Guard members assisting stranded motorists in Wichita Falls and Lubbock. With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declaring a state of emergency, Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, the state's adjutant general, can activate elements of the Wisconsin National Guard to active duty to assist local authorities if needed. The declaration also directs all state agencies to assist in any response or recovery efforts.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania have Guard members on standby, but no mission requirements had arisen as of last night.