By Melissa Leon | Fox News
Nearly 8,000 troops across four states are preparing for relief efforts as Hurricane Dorian shambles toward the Southeast coast, U.S. National Guard officials said Wednesday.
Air and Army National Guard members were activated in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina in anticipation of the storm’s arrival this week.
“As this storm moves north, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina will in succession … add more forces to National Guard structures that are in place,” said Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, coordinating between states and the federal government.
Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen preparing for potential missions responding to Hurricane Dorian. (Ching Oettel)
“The National Guard can also draw upon from a proven and highly trained force of over 450,000 men and women — soldiers and airmen — from all 50 states, three territories and District of Columbia if needed,” Lengyel said.
HURRICANE DORIAN LASHES FLORIDA WITH TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS, AS CAROLINAS BRACE FOR ‘VERY CLOSE BRUSH’
Hurricane Dorian, a Category 2 storm with wind speeds of 105 mph, has been on track to move parallel to Florida and Georgia’s east coasts through Wednesday night. The center of the storm is forecast to move over or near the Carolinas’ coasts from Thursday to Friday, the National Hurricane Center reported in its 2 p.m. ET update.
Dorian was about 115 miles east of Jacksonville, Fla., moving north-northwestward at 9 mph, and though it is no longer the Category 5 monstrosity it was when it struck the Bahamas, it’s expected to pack “life-threatening” storm surges, the NHC said.
Dorian destroyed parts of the Bahamas earlier this week and killed at least seven people, officials said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. military was sending a team to the Bahamas to provide support.
Florida National Guard forces prepare for potential Dorian relief missions. (Ching Oettel)
“I have approved DoD [Department of Defense] support to Northcom to airlift … personnel and supplies, and we also will be sending along with that aircraft a DoD airfield assessment team, an airfield clearing team and an air traffic control team to open the Bahamas up as soon as possible for relief flights, aid flights, etc.,” he said. “So again, that’s all in addition to what we’re prepared to provide for the people of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and others.”
HURRICANE DORIAN’S DEVASTATION IN THE BAHAMAS REVEALED
Dorian has already brought tropical storm conditions to Florida, lashing parts of the state with heavy rain and winds. Hurricane warnings have been posted from north of the Savannah River to the North Carolina-Virginia border, encompassing the entire South and North Carolina coastlines. Officials ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of South and North Carolina.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 4,800 Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen prepared for various support missions, including logistics, communication and shelter.
An airman from the Florida National Guard preparing equipment prior to deployment for Hurricane Dorian. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Christopher Milbrodt)
“We are well-equipped, with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and are staging for possible missions to include humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation and more,” said Air Force Maj. Caitlin Brown, the Florida National Guard’s public affairs officer.
The Florida Guard also will provide support for two aviation missions in Miami-Dade County – support for the state’s barrier islands and a Helicopter search and rescue team, officials said.
UH-60 Blackhawks, CH-47 Chinooks and LUH-72 Lakotas have been on standby for those missions, Brown added.
Florida National Guard makes ready for the storm. (Ching Oettel)
In Georgia, more than 1,000 Air and Army Guardsmen have been activated and stand ready to respond, said Army Lt. Col. Patrick Watson, the Georgia National Guard’s public affairs officer.
In addition, “Up to 2,000 Guardsmen may be staged on State Active Duty (SAD),” he said.
The Georgia National Guard has been prepared to respond with Humvees, construction equipment and power generation equipment, as well as aircraft to participate in search and rescue, transportation or damage assessment missions, Watson said.
“With armories and regional facilities across the state, the [Georgia] DoD is well-positioned to rapidly assist civil authorities wherever and whenever needed with medical personnel, engineers, security and transportation specialists,” he said.
More than 1,100 soldiers and airmen were activated in South Carolina ahead of Dorian’s anticipated arrival.
“The South Carolina National Guard is prepared to mobilize to support full coastal evacuation and any other missions that may be required of us in support of civil authorities,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty.
“The South Carolina National Guard is ready to support the counties and first responders with whatever resources they need for as long as needed before, during, and after the impact of Hurricane Dorian to the state of South Carolina,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jessica Donnelly, director of public affairs for the South Carolina National Guard.
“As citizen-soldiers and airmen, South Carolina is our home and we are honored to support our neighbors in their time of need,” she added.
In North Carolina, more than 300 Army and Air Guardsmen prepared for the storm and 1,600 others have been on alert, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Matt Devivo, public affairs officer for the North Carolina National Guard.
The North Carolina Guard also has at least 120 high-water clearance vehicles and search and rescue helicopters on standby, and the Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing is ready to support with C-17 aircraft, Devivo said.
The Navy ordered dozens of warships and aircraft to evacuate two bases in northeast Florida ahead of the anticipated arrival of the hurricane.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Travis Fedschun and Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.