JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska Army National Guard is providing emergency response assistance to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough starting today after high winds have led to infrastructure damage, power outages, and dangerous transportation conditions for road and air travel.
The National Weather Service has reported wind gusts upward of 90 miles per hour, and residents in affected areas have been advised to shelter-in-place for the duration of the windstorm.
Ten AKARNG personnel and several vehicles are staged at the Alcantra National Guard Armory in Wasilla, on standby to assist local authorities with ground evacuation operations for isolated citizens needing transportation to warming shelters, to conduct traffic management and pilot car operations along roads that may be restricted to single lane operations due to drifting snow, and provide Mat-Su Borough Emergency Operations personnel access to Alaska State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) owned generators at the armory compound.
Governor Mike Dunleavy declared a disaster emergency Jan. 3, in multiple boroughs and areas of the state impacted by severe winter storms, extreme winds, and extreme cold temperatures.
The National Guard’s efforts are in response to a resource request from the SEOC, which was prompted by a request for support from the Mat-Su EOC, in need of additional support to evacuate borough citizens stranded in their homes. There is additional concern that conditions could worsen, as the National Weather Service issued a special weather statement for hazardous conditions through-out the region.
“The Alaska National Guard is always trained and ready to support fellow Alaskans,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner for Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, “we are staging personnel, vehicles, and equipment in order to provide rapid response and to protect the lives and property of those in need.”
The SEOC is managed by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which falls within the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Task Force-MatSu is comprised of Soldiers from the 297th Regional Support Group and is assigned one Light Medium Tactical Vehicle, one High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, and one four-wheel drive passenger vehicle providing direct support to Mat-Su Borough.
When local authorities determine that an emergency or disaster has caused more impact or damage than the community is able to support independently, they may request assistance through the SEOC. State emergency managers assist local emergency managers in a coordinated effort to provide the necessary resources, effectively and within a codified process. It is through this process that it may be determined that the National Guard’s assistance is needed, and the state requests specific support through the Alaska National Guard Joint Operations Center and Joint Staff, who expedite and coordinate the effort.