Va. National Guard to stage personnel for possible severe weather response operations in Hampton Roads area

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Sept. 2, 2016, and authorized the Virginia National Guard to bring up 300 personnel on state active duty to support a multi-agency state effort to prepare for possible impacts from the remnants of Hurricane Hermine. The Guard plans to stage Soldiers in the Hampton Roads area with Humvees, light/medium tactical trucks and chain saws. Alerts will begin Friday afternoon, and personnel and equipment are scheduled to be in place by Saturday morning to assist local law enforcement and emergency response organizations.

“We are strongly encouraging everyone in Virginia to prepare for the possibility of damaging winds, downed trees, power outages and flooding in much of the Commonwealth,” said McAuliffe in a news release. “I have been briefed by the National Weather Service and my emergency team, who are tracking this storm and monitoring for the potential that it will reconstitute as a nor’easter with significant rainfall, life-threatening storm surge and flooding. I urge Virginians to limit travel as the severe weather arrives and evacuate if recommended by officials. We hope this storm passes quickly through our Commonwealth, but our top priority must be to ensure the safety of our citizens and their families.”

The declaration enables public safety agencies including the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to begin planning for appropriate resources needed to assist.

“The Virginia Department of Emergency Management requested that we provide the capabilities of high water transport and debris reduction, so we are staging personnel with vehicles and chain saws in order to rapidly respond if needed,” said Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin, director of the joint staff for the Virginia National Guard.

Expected missions for the Guard include using Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks to provide transportation through high water, Griffin said. The 4×4 light medium tactical vehicle, or LMTV, has a 2.5-ton capacity and the 6×6 medium tactical vehicle, or MTV, has a 5-ton capacity. Soldiers will also be organized into debris reduction teams with chain saws.

The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Griffin said.

“We ask that if anyone needs assistance because of the severe weather, that they call 911 or their local dispatcher and do not contact the Virginia National Guard directly,” Griffin said. “If you let them know you need help, they will determine what emergency services are best suited to assist you. They will contact us if it appropriate for us to take action.”

The Virginia National Guard last served on state active duty in June 2016 when 20 Soldiers with Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks assisted with flood response operations in Alleghany and Botetourt counties. Soldiers from the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team quickly responded and were on location and ready for duty within 12 hours of the start of alert notifications.

In February 2016, more than 60 Soldiers assisted with cleanup efforts in areas of Virginia hardest hit by severe weather. Soldiers with chain saws organized in debris reduction teams helped clear fallen trees and other debris in Essex, Westmoreland, Sussex, Patrick and Appomattox Counties. Virginia Army National Guard air crews flew two rotary wing aviation missions to transport emergency managers on an aerial visual assessment and also captured images for damage estimates.