December Storm Prepares First Responders

By: Mark Tenia Email
By: Mark Tenia Email

February 5, 2010

For many emergency responders, including the National Guard, they feel like December's storm was a test that they could have been a lot more prepared for.

That's why it's not a surprise that this time around, it seem like the theme is over-preparedness, making sure that they're ready to help in any way they can.

For those assigned to help, there is already a big difference between this storm and December's.

"We were ready to go even before the flakes even started really hitting, where last time, folks were trying to work there way in as the snow was falling so it was hard to get soldiers and equipment set up," said Sgt. Dakota Whithers.

"The last time, it was a shelter that was started in the middle of the night, and we were called in at 3 a.m.," said Kathryne Presson, who manages the shelter at Monticello High School. "This one has been in the works for a couple of days."

The Virginia National Guard is standing by with plenty of soldiers on hand, who are preparing themselves and their equipment -- including specialized Humvees.

"Ours are a little different. They're set with an ambulance body which do fairly well in the snow with the extra weight," Whithers said.

At the Monticello shelter, food, water, televisions and cots are waiting for those that may need them.

"We are set to go," Presson said. "We also have nursing staff on site to assess any medical needs that might be required."

And while this time is different, some concerns remain the same.

"Our concern is as we go into the nightfall, as the snow picks up and it's going to be wet, and the winds pick up, that we're going to have power loss," Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding said. "And as that occurs, you could see shelters fill up fairly fast."

Officials hope to have a record response to what could be a record-setting snowfall.

And though the Guard will be working around the clock with emergency responded, for many members who have been deployed to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, it's a nice change to be deployed to some place so close to home.

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