National Guard and transportation hubs prepare for Irene

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – State agencies are preparing for hurricane response now that the governor has declared a state of emergency. National Guard soldiers and all transportation modes are on high alert for whatever may come our way.

It is that declaration of emergency that really gets the ball rolling. Coordination is key in making sure Virginia is prepared before Irene ever hits the shores of the Commonwealth.

They are the commonwealth's guardians, and as Hurricane Irene eyes our area, citizen-soldiers will be keeping a watchful eye on their fellow Virginians.

"This is business that we're prepared to do and certainly that we're very comfortable with," said Major General Daniel Long.

Thursday, Virginia Guard commanders called up 300 soldiers; another 200 are on standby for after the storm blows through.  Their anticipated tasks are some for which their military training has prepared them. They include high water transports, communication and engineering debris removal.

The next 24 hours are crucial to the mission's success.

"They will alert the soldiers, bring them into the armory, give them safety briefings, do communications checks, make sure the equipment is operational, do all sorts of things to prep the soldiers," Long explained.

The National Guard will hit the road Friday and be staged by 9 pm.

If you are planning on getting out of town by Amtrak, you might want to check your train. It's already canceled service on routes south of Washington, DC for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

At the airport, officials said you should expect airline delays this weekend.

"It's their call whether to put the planes in the air or not," said Operations Manager Jim Nilo.  "It's our call whether or not the airport is safe to operate.  The airport is like a little city, town or county all amongst itself so we use some of the same planning models and guidelines."

As with other severe weather incidents, you should always check with your airline in advance.

On the other hand, you shouldn't call the National Guard directly if you need help.  Contact your local emergency agencies and they'll dispatch the appropriate resources.

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