Help is on the way from Wisconsin, as the state National Guard sent five aircrafts with 29 soldiers to Arkansas Tuesday to provide needed assistance for when Hurricane Ike hits.
The 147th Aviation Battalion from Madison sent two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and the 832nd Medical Company from West Bend sent three UH-1 Huey helicopters.
The aircrafts arrived Tuesday night at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., 600 miles away from their Wisconsin bases.
“Right now, they’re waiting to see if they are going to be needed along the Gulf Coast to assist with hurricane efforts,” said Lt. Col. Tim Donovan of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.
With Hurricane Ike expected to hit early Saturday morning, the United States is gathering its resources in Arkansas so relief efforts are ready if Texas needs assistance.
While the officers are unsure of what tasks are ahead of them, search and rescue will be the probable task of the helicopters from Wisconsin.
“Three years ago, with Hurricane Katrina, they were used for search and rescue,” Donovan said. “They flew around New Orleans looking for people who were stranded on roofs, barns and trees. They plucked them off and took them to safety.”
The American Red Cross is also stepping in to help prepare for Hurricane Ike.
According to Jonathon Aiken, director of media relations for the Red Cross, volunteers arrived in Dallas Wednesday to start preparing for the storm.
“Right now, we wait and see what the storm does, position [volunteers] out of harm’s way, just outside of the storm so when the storm passes, we can move them in,” Aiken said.
The Red Cross, a nongovernmental organization, will work alongside other government and nongovernment agencies to provide relief for Hurricane Ike.
While there is no “ambassador plan,” Aiken said that should change today.
“We should have really good handle by Thursday, and we will have already started moving people by then,” Aiken said. “For now, we’re keeping them in concentrated spots so we can have them all together when need to move.”
Until the hurricane hits, the soldiers will be on standby. According to Donovan, the hurricane may not hit as hard as predicted, and Wisconsinites may be allowed to return home.
“They won’t necessarily go any farther than Arkansas, where a lot of equipment is being staged,” Donovan said. “The state of Texas may not need any help. It’s prudent to have resources and equipment more readily available.”
However, if called upon, the soldiers will stay and work in Texas as long as they are needed. There is also the possibility the soldiers may turn to Louisiana or eastern Texas to help with the remaining work created by Hurricane Gustav, which hit early last week.
“It has not been formally requested,” Donovan said. “If somebody in Louisiana or in east Texas, where they are still recovering, need assistance, they will also be available and closer to them.”