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National Guard soldiers help after devastating Virginia tornadoes

Posted at 7:43 AM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 19:16:57-05

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia National Guard soldiers will help clear and clean areas of Virginia hit hard by tornadoes. More than 50 soldiers received their orders Wednesday night to report for duty Thursday morning.

“Soldiers will be organized into debris reduction teams and equipped with chain saws and Humvees to help local emergency response organizations clear fallen trees and other debris. The Guard will also have rotary wing aviation support on standby to provide aerial damage assessment if needed,” Guard spokesman Cotton Puryear said.

The Guard will focus its efforts in Essex, Richmond, Westmoreland, Sussex and Patrick Counties.

“We are working as quickly as possible to alert Soldiers about state active duty so they can notify their employers they need to miss work staring on Thursday,” explained Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin, director of the Virginia National Guard joint staff. “We will have forces in place by Thursday morning and ready to assist with the state’s multi-agency clean up effort.”

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in response to February 24 storms, allowing public safety agencies including the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Transportation to begin planning for appropriate resources needed for storm response and recovery.

“If you need assistance because of the severe weather, please call 911 or your local dispatcher and let them know you need help and do not contact the Virginia National Guard directly,” Griffin said. “They will determine what emergency services are best suited to assist you, and they will contact us if it appropriate for us to take action.”