Lt. Colonel David Lester says in
the wake of this disaster, the immediate call was to help deal with the lack of
“What we’ve been doing as part
of the WV National Guard is transporting generators to areas identified by the
state emergency operation centers that need generators. Primarily the first
ones we targeted were nursing homes, hospitals, and water plants to make sure people
had water up and running.”
Lester says the storm created
unique challenges for the Guard.
“We’re used to dealing with
floods and snow events, and hurricanes. Typically those events happen to five
or six counties. This had such a broad sweep across the state of West Virginia
that there are so many communities on need that it’s been one of the most
trying ones we’ve dealt with.”
What’s more, Lester says
guardsmen are pulled up according to their skills. Typically that means
engineers who know how to deal with flooding; but in this case, the state needs
people with a different set of abilities.
“We have called up an additional
125 people which is part of the 450 members that we have out there who have a
background in transportation,” Lester says.
“What we’re finding we need are
people to drive trucks to deliver generators, drive trucks to be able to haul
things. All types of missions with vehicles is what we’re finding is the need
that we have. We’ve identified that and we’re filling that need so what you’re
going to see is a more guard vehicles out in your communities.”
Lester says in addition to
trying to help fill the various depleted food pantries, the Guard is also
trying to check on people living in the more remote areas.
“What are teams are doing now is
trying to set up distribution points. Trying to go out with our vehicles and
make sure we’re knocking on doors of people who may live isolated and ask them
if they need help. We call that help and wellness teams.”
According to a news release,
approximately 400 West Virginia National Guard members are currently deployed
across the state.