Red Dragons assist Roanoke first responders with flood evacuations

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assist the Roanoke Police and Fire-EMS Swift Water Rescue Team evacuate more than 110 people from an area hotel threatened by rising flood waters May 21, 2020, in Roanoke, Virginia. Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team used medium tactical trucks capable of traveling through high water to transport the citizens as well as pets to safety. (Photo courtesy Roanoke Fire-EMS)

ROANOKE, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assisted with flood response and rescue operations in the Roanoke, Virginia, area after days of heavy rains resulted in major flooding in and around the city.

Soldiers assigned to the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported rescue missions, assisting the Roanoke Fire-EMS Swift Water Rescue Team and Roanoke Police Department.  Using their medium tactical vehicles, the Soldiers traversed high water to help rescue approximately 115 citizens from a hotel threatened by flood waters May 21, 2020, in Roanoke.

During the rescue, the Swift Water Rescue Team used their watercraft to make sure there were no submerged hazardous obstacles before the National Guard trucks forded the high water. The Soldiers then transported the trapped citizens through the floodwater back to dry ground. Those rescued were taken to other hotels in the region.

During the missions, several pets were rescued as well.

Lt. Col. Jim Tierney, commander of the 1-116th, highlighted the efforts of his Soldiers and the partnerships VNG has with the Virginia Department of Emergency management and local first responders.

“We’re thankful our Soldiers were able to be there to help Roanoke and the surrounding areas impacted by the flooding,” said Tierney. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the local authorities which allows our Soldiers to quickly integrate with first responders to ensure we can do the most good. The Red Dragons continue to support the Commonwealth and our communities in time of need.”

Flood water inundated parts of Roanoke after several days of heavy rain, attributed to a slow-moving weather system. The system caused flash flooding as well as river flooding, with the Roanoke River cresting near “major” flood stage. Water levels have started receding, but the National Weather Service warned it will be days until the water is back to a safe level.

A spokesperson from Roanoke Fire-EMS spoke highly of the assistance the Soldiers were able to provide.

“The National Guard was able to assist local responders in a seamless operation to evacuate a hotel surrounded by flood waters,” said Roanoke Fire-EMS Capt. Robert Reid. “The assistance from the National Guard gave us the opportunity to quickly evacuate the residents and do so safely. The City of Roanoke is very appreciative of their support.”

During domestic operations, the VNG receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and responds as part of a multi-agency team like the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency agencies to provide support capabilities to communities in need. The VNG is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, so people in need should call 911 and not the VNG directly.

(Photo courtesy of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment)
(Photo courtesy Roanoke Fire-EMS)
(Photo courtesy of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment)
(Photo courtesy of 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment)
(Photo by Don Petersen, Special to the Roanoke Times)
(Photo by Don Petersen, Special to the Roanoke Times)
(Photo courtesy Roanoke Fire-EMS)
(Photo courtesy Roanoke Fire-EMS)