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Several States Respond to Winter Storm

Guard members in five states mobilize to assist stranded civilians in traffic tie-ups across the South
SSG Andrew Huffman and Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard assist stranded motorists following Winter Storm Leon. Photo by SFC Frederick Gilyard
SSG Andrew Huffman and Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard assist stranded motorists following Winter Storm Leon. Photo by SFC Frederick Gilyard

National Guard Soldiers from five Southern states have been activated in response to Winter Storm Leon, which brought traffic to a standstill in cities across the region. A Wednesday tally reflected about 700 Guard troops on duty in hard-hit areas in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Although only a few inches of snow fell in these areas, freezing rain left ice on roadways throughout the region, which turned interstate roads into frigid parking lots. Stranded motorists abandoned cars and camped in such refuges as gas stations, according to a National Public Radio report. NPR also reported that 800 Alabama schoolchildren spent the night in their school.

Currently in Georgia, the Guard has deployed 41 vehicles and 78 Guard members. The Guard has cleared all 40 school buses stranded in Georgia from the storm, along with rescuing 100 children and motorists. While all school buses have been cleared, the Guard is still working to assist stranded motorists, operating alongside first responders. The Georgia Guard has also been distributing MREs, water and blankets.

"State DOT crews will work around the clock to get roads clear," says Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. "In addition, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety and GEMA [Georgia Emergency Management Agency] will work to get the state back to normal as quickly as possible."

Captain William Carraway, the public affairs officer for the Georgia National Guard, says, “The Georgia Guard has worked through the night assisting local first responders and aiding stranded motorists." 

In South Carolina, the Guard is providing four wrecker teams to various staging areas throughout the state, following the Declaration of State of Emergency by Gov. Nikki Haley. The wrecker teams will support the South Carolina Department of Public Safety in assisting motorists during the ice and snow expected to impact the state.

The South Carolina National Guard wrecker teams will be available for 24-hour operations. Each wrecker team consists of eight personnel, including a wrecker and two High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs).

“The National Guard is leaning forward to support the governor and state in any way that is needed,” says Brigadier General Darlene Goff, director of joint staff, South Carolina National Guard. “We understand the impact this weather event could have on our communities tonight and are ready to assist.”

The governor of Alabama, Dr. Robert Bentley, has authorized 200 Alabama National Guard members to respond across central and south Alabama, supporting the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. CNN reported that at least five people died Tuesday in weather-related traffic accidents.

In Louisiana, 450 Guard members were called to state Active Duty. The Louisana Guard mobilized personnel and equipment to assist authorities with road de-icing and road grading operations in the Hammond, LA, and Lafayette, LA, areas, as well as provide maintenance and logistics support equipment. National Guard liaisons are ready to mobilize to parish emergency operations centers as required. 

The LANG is also working with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), as well as other state and local agencies, to anticipate any possible emergency requirements and support that the storm may generate.

In North Carolina, where about 30 Soldiers were on state Active Duty, Gov. Pat McCrory says, “Our goal is to be overprepared.”