January 1st, 2016 10:31 EST
Guardsmen Battle Floods in Missouri, Elsewhere
At least 625 National Guard soldiers and airmen are on duty today as several southern and central states fight heavy floods triggered by rain and runoff.
In response to historic flooding in some areas of Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon mobilized the Missouri National Guard to protect local communities and support emergency response personnel.
The human toll so far: At least 20 people dead over several days in Missouri and Illinois, the Associated Press reported.
States of Emergency
States of emergency have been declared in these states: Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri, according to data from the National Guard Bureau.
By far, Missouri had the most guard personnel on duty, with about 515 according to NGB figures. The guard there mobilized a task force with several hundred soldiers and airmen in several different locations across the state to provide defense support of civil authorities by saving lives, protecting property, and maintaining public order, said Army Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
About 50 troops are on duty in New Mexico and 54 in Oklahoma for weather-related assistance. The Iowa National Guard has agreed to provide support to Missouri personnel, but hasn`t deployed anyone yet.
"The citizen-soldiers and airmen of the Missouri National Guard are once again ready to support fellow Missourians in need," Danner said. "We will provide the same high-quality emergency response they`ve come to expect."
Missouri National Guard liaison officers are at emergency operations centers in Perry, St. Charles, Cape Girardeau, Jefferson, St. Louis and Franklin counties, where in the coming days the Mississippi River is expected to exceed the record levels set in the Great Flood of 1993, which caused $15 billion in damages and flooded 30,000 square miles.
Supporting Local Authorities
While on duty, Missouri Guard members are expected to take on a number of missions in support of local authorities, to include directing traffic away from road closures, providing security around breached levees and evacuated areas, sandbagging, and levee monitoring, Danner said.
"We have a team of seasoned leaders who are well-versed in responding to state emergencies," Danner said. "[The] Missouri National Guard has supported 14 state emergencies since 2009, including major flooding in 2011."
The evacuation of the town of West Alton has already taken place as a result of flooding. Hundreds of roads have been closed across Missouri, including in St. Louis and all lanes of I-44 at Jerome near Rolla. In addition, 124 areas on rivers in Missouri are at or above flood stage.
Local officials in Perryville have been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fortify the Bois Brule levee on the Mississippi River to protect area homes and businesses, including Sabreliner Corporation and Gilster-Mary Lee.
The troops are part of a task force organized under the 35th Engineer Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, with Army Lt. Col. Paul Kirchhoff as the task force commander. Other units supporting the flood response include 70th Troop Command and 157th Air Operations, Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis County; 205th Military Police Battalion, Poplar Bluff; 1140th Engineer Battalion, Cape Girardeau; and the Joint Operations Center at Joint Force Headquarters in Jefferson City.
(The Missouri National Guard contributed to this article.)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia