North Carolina National Guard troops are working alongside first responders as Hurricane Florence makes its way inland.
Officials said they know the worst is yet to come as the state prepares for more flooding and high winds.
“We still have just over 2,800 National Guardsmen on state active duty,” said Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a spokesman for the NCNG.
That is the most troops ever activated ahead of a major storm. One-third of the troops are based east of Interstate 95. They are serving across the eastern part of the state, including New Bern, where they are assessing ongoing flooding, and Lumberton, where soldiers are helping to place sandbags.
In another first for the state, a dual-status commander has been activated for the storm. Maj. Gen. James Ernst, the state’s assistant adjutant general, is now reporting to both active-duty and National Guard commanders, officials said. It’s the first time such a commander has been in place for disaster response in the state.
Ernst will help coordinate efforts between National Guard forces and active-duty troops at Fort Bragg and other installations.
Maj. Matthew Boyle, also an NCNG spokesman, said the worst from Hurricane Florence is yet to come. “This is a serious storm,” he said, “and it’s just beginning.”
Boyle said NCNG troops were working closely with first responders and state officials. “Our folks are working hard to save lives,” he said.
DeVivo said he expects those efforts to increase once the worst of the storm’s winds pass. That’s when NCNG helicopter crews will get up in the air to help with search-and-rescue and damage assessments.
DeVivo said there is a possibility that additional troops will be called to assist in relief operations. “This has been a historic disaster,” he said. “And I expect us to be a lot busier tonight and tomorrow.”
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