CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn is sending 95 members of the Illinois National Guard and eight helicopters to Vermont to help with flood relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The governor’s office announced Wednesday afternoon that he has placed the guardsmen and helicopters on active duty. The National Guard members were already in Rome, N.Y., and they will use that as their base of operations to fly in and out of Burlington Vt., as part of flood relief efforts.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports
“As our friends in Vermont face some of the worst flooding their state has seen in over a century, we want them to know we are here to help,” Governor Quinn said. “I’m proud that the soldiers in the Illinois National Guard are able to respond so quickly to the needs of our fellow Americans.”
The troops will help deliver food, water and medicine to several towns in Vermont that were isolated by flooding. The troops, along with six Blackhawk helicopters and two Chinook helicopters – as well as pilots, crew and ground support vehicles came from National Guard bases in Chicago, Peoria and Decatur.
Imagine three months’ worth of rain in one hour. That’s what parts of Vermont got from Hurricane Irene, according to Lt. Col. Randy Sikowski, who’s commanding the guardsmen who are helping with the flood relief efforts in Vermont.
People in coastal areas of New York and New Jersey prepared for the hurricane’s wrath, but they were spared, while upstate New York and Vermont were hit hard.
“You never know which way a hurricane is going to turn or where it’s going to go. We tried to pre-position our assets in Rome, N.Y.,” says Sikowski. “The supplies include water, food, blankets, tarps, cots, and several pallets of supplies for the citizens of Vermont.”
There are more helpers from Illinois; Ameren Illinois Utilities says about 100 of its employees are in Vermont as well, helping restore electricity to homes and businesses.