By Cotton Puryear Virginia National Guard
SANDSTON, Va., January 21, 2016 — The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 500 soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on state active duty for possible assistance with the state’s severe winter weather response operations.
The plans come as weather forecasters are predicting a snowstorm of massive proportions to strike the Middle Atlantic region beginning tomorrow.
The Virginia Guard plans to stage personnel at readiness centers along the I-81 corridor between Lexington and Winchester, along the Route 29 corridor from Warrenton to Danville, as well as in the areas near Richmond, Fredericksburg and Gate City in order to be ready to respond if needed. The alert process to notify personnel to report for duty has begun, and they are scheduled to be in place by early evening today.
Take Necessary Precautions
"Keeping Virginians safe in the event of severe weather is our top concern," Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said today in his emergency declaration. "All Virginians should take the threat of this storm seriously and take necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period."
Potential missions for the Virginia Guard and Virginia Defense Force include transportation through heavy snow, downed tree removal, debris reduction and distribution of food, water and other supplies, said Army Col. Thomas L. Morgan III, director of joint operations for the Virginia Guard.
"In order to be able to respond rapidly when needed, we will get our personnel in place at key locations before the severe weather hits," Morgan said.
The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Morgan said.
"If you need assistance because of the winter storm, please call 911 or your local dispatcher and let them know you need help and do not contact the Virginia National Guard directly," he said. "They will determine what emergency services are best suited to assist you, and they will contact us if it appropriate for us to take action."
History of Service
The Virginia National Guard last went on state active duty for response operations caused by heavy snow, ice and flooding in late February and early March 2015. Over an almost three-week period, more than 330 soldiers staged at locations across the commonwealth to assist local law enforcement and emergency response organizations with delivering food, water, medicine and other supplies, evacuating citizens for safety and medical assistance and removing snow berms limiting road access with engineer equipment.
Virginia National Guard aviators also conducted an aerial resupply mission to deliver supplies to an iced-in Tangier Island.
Since 2001, the Virginia National Guard has called up more than 8,500 personnel for state active duty to support state and local emergency response organizations as part of a coordinated state-wide response, as well as missions in Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, New York and Vermont.