Wednesday, August 31, 2011 — KINSTON, N.C. – As the final rain drops fell on a battered but unbroken North Carolina landscape, the North Carolina National Guard, in partnership with both state and local agencies of North Carolina Emergency Management began the arduous task of preparing for the aftermath of Hurricane Irene here Aug 28.
Irene began as a category IV storm earlier in the week, with winds in excess of 150 mph and spanning over 200 miles in width. The storm lost momentum and was downgraded to a category I storm as it made landfall in the early morning hours on Saturday.
“Our primary mission was to provide air support for life saving missions, reinforce infrastructure improvement by moving critical food and medical supplies into hard hit areas and also conducting air recovery missions for displaced persons,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Cattaneo, a tactical operations officer and member of 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 449th Theater Aviation Brigade.
Thousands of North Carolina residents lost power after the storm hit and property and roads were littered with fallen trees, debris and in some cases, power lines.
As Irene struck the N.C. coast, she produced winds in excess of 85 mph and over 12 inches of precipitation in some areas. Due to the high winds, some swift water and vehicle recovery operations could not take place.
As winds subsided however, nearly100 Guardsmen were sent to New Bern and Rocky Mount to assist local first responders in flood and swift water operations.
The Guard initially had almost 25 civilian and military aircraft available for assistance after the storm hit, as well as a full complement of heavy and light-wheeled vehicles, capable of fording deep water and making it possible to get into hard hit areas.
Cattaneo said that because the National Guard planning their air operations site early was a crucial factor to their success with North Carolina Department of Forestry and Kinston Jetport. He said by doing so, they got ahead of potential emergencies, which made the aviation support more responsive and synchronized with the overall disaster recovery plan.