WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2012 – More than 33,500 National Guard personnel and nearly 100 aircraft are available to the governors of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens states along the Gulf of Mexico, Defense Department officials said today.
Army Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, Mississippi’s adjutant general, called about 1,500 National Guard personnel to state active duty this morning in support of emergency operations in anticipation of the storm’s potential landfall on or near the Mississippi Gulf Coast later this week. Guard soldiers and airmen will begin arriving today in coastal counties, preparing to support security operations, search and rescue, debris removal and commodity distribution, officials said.
In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has activated 4,126 National Guard personnel to assist with evacuation and logistics.
Defense Department facilities near Isaac's projected path are taking actions to alert, prepare and secure their equipment, facility and personnel for the storm. Homestead Air Reserve Base, MacDill Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, Duke Field and Hurlburt Field in Florida, as well as Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La., have relocated their aircraft, or have evacuations in progress, officials said.
In a conference call with reporters today, Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said people should not take the storm lightly.
“In this case we have a tropical storm that we’re forecasting to become a hurricane,” he said, “and it certainly concerns me that people don’t take it seriously, because right now they see it as a tropical storm and may not believe that it’s going to strengthen.
“We cannot guarantee 100 percent how much it’s going to strengthen,” he continued. “We’re forecasting Category 1. It could end up being a little stronger than that, perhaps a 2, [or] it could end up being a little weaker than that, perhaps a tropical storm. That’s strong enough, in any of those cases, to produce problems with regard to wind and wind damage.”
A tropical storm packs winds up to 74 mph. A Category 1 hurricane has winds up to 95 mph andA Category 2 storm’s winds are in the 96 to 110 mph range. U.S. Northern Command is coordinating the Defense Department’s support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local response activities.
The command has activated portions of its Region 6 Defense Coordinating Office and Defense Coordinating Element to Baton Rouge, La., to validate, plan and coordinate potential DOD support of FEMA's hurricane response operations and to facilitate DOD's support of potential life-saving and response operations, Northcom officials said in a news release.
Northcom also has deployed portions of its Region 1 DCO and DCE to Clanton, Ala., and its Region 7 DCO and DCE to Pearl, Miss., to backfill the Region 4 DCO and DCE members, who are deployed to the Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
Additionally, the command has designated Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as incident support bases.
(Claudette Roulo of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)