06/09/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/09/2023 23:46
WASHINGTON - Typhoon Mawar, a Category 4 storm, hit the U.S. territory of Guam May 24 bringing torrential rain, strong winds and leaving thousands without power, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In the days before landfall, President Joe Biden declared an emergency and ordered federal assistance to supplement local response efforts. The Army National Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and active-duty units began preparing for recovery operations.
"It's our duty to protect people and property, whether that be [in the U.S.] or overseas," said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Beddall, vice director of the National Guard Bureau's Joint Operations Center. "We offer highly trained and tested personnel capable of responding anywhere they're needed."
After the storm hit, utilities were lost, homes were damaged or destroyed and some families had to live in refugee shelters.
The members of the Guam National Guard immediately assisted with response efforts. They helped the island's more than 150,000 citizens by clearing roads, removing debris, directing traffic and helping to restore power.
The National Guard Bureau, Hawaii National Guard, U.S. Army Pacific and Army Reserve personnel were all brought in to assist in the recovery.
"We are appreciative of the work we've already accomplished with our territorial and federal partners, and I'm happy to announce that more relief is on the way," Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said in a statement May 29. "As our community continues making progress towards recovery in the wake of Typhoon Mawar, I've been assured that Guam will be provided with every necessary resource for a complete and speedy recovery."
Back in the U.S., the Army is preparing for the hurricane season, June 1- Nov. 30, and the wildfire season, which typically runs from the summer into fall depending on the region of the country.
U.S. Army North held their annual Hurricane Rehearsal of Concept Drill at Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston May 24. The training helps synchronize active-duty military support efforts with federal, state, territorial and local partners to ensure seamless support in the event of a hurricane response mission.
The scenario for this year featured three sequential hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. The theoretical storms ranged in intensity and impacted multiple areas over a short period of time.
This rehearsal allowed U.S. Army North, joint military services, U.S. federal agencies and other participating organizations to game plan potential recovery efforts for the hurricane season.
"You want to build those friendships and relationships prior to the event happening, which is so critical, because then you really can work through getting after the need at hand," said Maj. Gen. William Prendergast IV, deputy commander of U.S. Army North and Task Force 51 commander.
The task force is a deployable command post embedded within U.S. Army North designed to assist local, state, and federal responders with disasters. It has 30 assigned service members and can add additional Soldiers if needed.
The team can operate in rigorous environments with less than 24 hours notification when a federal agency requests support.
They can drop into a disaster area and operate on their own without taking resources away from the community in crisis, Prendergast said. They respond to various incidents including wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes.
Last year, there were 14 named storms, of which two intensified into major hurricanes reaching wind speeds of 111 mph or greater, Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona.
According to the NOAA, 156 people lost their lives during Hurricane Ian, and it became the third costliest storm in U.S. history, causing $114 billion in damages.
The NOAA predicted near-normal hurricane activity this year, which would match last season.
There were also almost 69,000 wildfires in the U.S. last year as reported by the National Interagency Fire Center. These fires burned more than 7.5 million acres.
One of the many roles of the National Guard is providing aid and helping combat hurricanes and wildfires. At the end of May, 357 members were supporting wildfire response efforts in California and Colorado.
"We live and work in these communities," Beddall said during a media roundtable May 23. "So, we're invested in every response in order to make ourselves a little bit better, so that we can meet the needs that need to be met."
Each year, the National Guard gathers with state leaders to discuss weather projections. Here, they line up potential response options in case help is requested.
More than 8,000 National Guard Soldiers are currently engaged in domestic operation missions supporting local communities.
"As we officially begin hurricane season and expect wildfires to ravage this summer, we can only predict that the number of [National Guard] Soldiers called to action nationwide will also grow as the seasons unfold," Beddall said. "We're committed to serve our communities for as long as we're needed."