National Guard activated for debris cleanup

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By Calen McKinney

Gov. Steve Beshear on Saturday directed Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini to order the unprecedented activation of all Kentucky Army National Guard units, along with selected portions of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

The activation is in response to the devastating winter storms that rendered more than a half million Kentuckians without electric power and has paralyzed most of Western Kentucky.

"This is the largest state call-up of Kentucky National Guard forces in the history of the Commonwealth," said Gov. Beshear, "It represents the strongest possible effort to relieve human suffering and ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens."

The total number of troops on duty will be 4,600 by the end of the day on Saturday. This activation does not include Guard members who are college students or who have not completed basic training.

An immediate priority has been placed on assisting in the restoration of electric power to water plants, communications facilities and homes. Troops are currently clearing routes for emergency response vehicles as well as helping utility crews gain access to damaged power transmission lines.

In an expanded mission for the Kentucky National Guard, troops are now teaming up with local emergency management agencies, fire departments, rescue squads, law enforcement agencies and volunteers to conduct "wellness checks" for all households in Kentucky's 120 counties.

Troops have been instructed to attach green tape on the mail boxes or other locations visible from the road indicating that residents have sufficient food, power, water or communications. Red tape will be used to indicate homes where shortfalls exist.

Houses marked with red tape will be reported to local emergency operations centers and will be placed on a list to be resurveyed for on-going support based on county capabilities.

On Friday, the Campbellsville National Guard unit was activated to help clean up debris created from this week's ice storm.

According to Taylor County Judge/Executive, Taylor County has been allocated 20 National Guard soldiers to assist with cleanup. Fifteen of those, he said, are currently on standby and are coordinating their efforts with Ronnie Dooley, Taylor County Emergency Management's public information coordinator, and Taylor County Volunteer Fire Chief George Wilson.

Rogers said the soldiers will help clear roadways to allow local utility workers to restore power to residents. He said some residents have been without power for nearly two days.

"It's devastating," he said. "It's a war zone."

The Guard will not help clear private property, Rogers said.

Rogers said the County's road crew has been salting and plowing roads for more than 48 hours. He said inmates from the Taylor County Detention Center and Taylor County Animal Shelter workers are also assisting.

The County will open up the former Fruit of the Loom building as a site that area residents can bring tree trimmings and other debris from the storm beginning tomorrow morning. Other items will not be accepted.

Rogers said the site will be open for the next few days.

For more information, contact Rogers at 465-7729.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.