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National Guard prepares for Hurricane Sandy; 'perfect storm'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- More than 61,000 National Guard personnel along the eastern seaboard are available for duty if and when Hurricane Sandy makes landfall sometime next week, Guard officials said today.

The National Guards in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia are coordinating with authorities in the event Sandy makes landfall as predicted.

As of noon today, governors in Maryland and Virginia declared states of emergency.

"We are monitoring Hurricane Sandy closely and coordinating with our federal, state and local partners to ensure a coordinated and efficient response," said Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Currently, there are no state or federal requests for National Guard assistance, but rest assured the National Guard is poised and ready to provide proven responders and capabilities."

According to National Weather Service officials, the Category I storm could weaken into a tropical storm before it hits land in the Northeast/New England coast, but it could drop as much as 10 inches of rain along the coast on its northerly trajectory. If it collides with arctic air moving from the north and an early winter storm moving from the west, Sandy could potentially turn into what some weather officials are calling the "perfect storm."

In Delaware, the 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron has nurses and med techs already on standby, while the Air Guard is moving all flyable equipment out of the storm's path over the weekend. The Army Guard will be sheltering helicopters until the storm passes, at which point they can fly into action as needed, Delaware National Guard officials said.

The New York National Guard Joint Operations Center will go to full staffing Sunday and NYNG representatives will be manning the state Emergency Management Center over the weekend, according to New York Guard officials.

The New York Army National Guard is planning for the deployment of an immediate response force on Monday of about 250 Soldiers, officials said.

Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the New York National Guard adjutant general, has asked the governor's office to request that the Secretary of Defense appoint Army Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of the 53rd Troop Command, as a dual-status commander for this event. This status allows Swezey to command both National Guard and active duty/ federal Reserve troops if the governor decides to request the assistance of federal assets.

"We are joined in a cooperative effort...with a single set of objectives - to save lives, preserve peace and civil order, and support recovery efforts," Gen. Grass said.

The Delaware and New York Public Affairs offices and Air Force Maj. Gary Arasin contributed to this story.

Original content found here.
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