Aug. 26, 2011

Virginia Guard personnel preparing for possible Hurricane Irene recovery operations

By Cotton Puryear      
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

The Virginia National Guard began staging approximately 300 personnel at readiness centers in Bowling Green, Emporia and Sandston and in the Onancock area Aug. 26 in order to be ready to support potential response missions related to Hurricane Irene. Personnel are scheduled to be in place by Friday evening. The Virginia Guard has been authorized to bring up to 500 personnel on state active duty for possible severe weather recovery operations and additional personnel have been alerted for possible duty and will be held in reserve for future missions.


Virginia National Guard Soldiers in Sandston prepare for possible duty in response to Hurricane Irene by unloading pallets of cots and Meals Ready to Eat. The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 300 personnel on state active duty for possible missions including high water transport and light debris removal. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

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Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in Virginia Thursday morning in preparation for Hurricane Irene and authorized bringing Virginia Guard personnel on duty as part of the coordinated state-wide response plan. A state of emergency is declared under state law so that state resources can be made available, and according the governor’s statement, the emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local initial recovery efforts.

“We are issuing this state of emergency today as a precautionary measure in order to ensure that we are ready for any potential effects of Hurricane Irene in the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in the declaration. “In conjunction with our federal, state and local partners we are monitoring Irene closely, and we will issue further statements and orders as necessary in accordance with the final projected path of the hurricane. At this time, 48 hours before any possible impact of Irene, it is imperative that, in an abundance of caution, all Virginians, state agencies and localities prepare for this storm.”

The declaration allows the Virginia National Guard to position resources at key locations in advance of severe weather hitting the commonwealth.

"We will be staging personnel, vehicles and equipment to support missions such as high water transport and recovery, light debris removal and route clearance," said Col. Gerald T. Catrett, director of operations for the Virginia Guard. "It is critical for us to have personnel in place and ready to respond before severe weather hits so we can rapidly respond when called."

The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Catrett said. "If the severe weather creates any conditions where people need assistance, they should request assistance through their local dispatcher or 911 service, not directly to the Virginia Guard. When appropriate, the request for assistance will be forwarded to us for action," he said.

In September 2003, approximately 230 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen assisted local emergency response organizations respond to Hurricane Isabel. By September 30, 2003, Virginia Guard personnel distributed 2,013,400 pounds of ice and 1,192,200 gallons of water, and Virginia Guard engineers assisted the Virginia Department of Transportation with clearing light debris and improving trafficability on roads.

Archive photos from 2003:

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