Since Sunday, Gov. Corbett had been monitoring the state’s response to Hurricane-then-Superstorm Sandy from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management’s headquarters in Harrisburg. On Tuesday, he visited Fort Indiantown Gap, the deployment site of the nearly 2,000 Pennsylvania National Guard troops assisting with recovery efforts.
“Right. Soldiers and airmen, on your feet,” said Adjutant General Wesley Craig, head of the Guard, to uniformed men and women staffing the storm response command center, which coordinates with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and decides how to deploy National Guard soldiers to help.
“We are only one of the tools in the governor’s kit bag,” said Craig. “There are other state agencies that might be able to handle whatever the emergency is, first. But we provide a lot of extra flex manpower.”
The governor made the rounds to greet the command center’s manpower individually. “Tell the governor who you are and what you do,” said Craig.
So far, what they do is a lot of big hauls: troops have secured 80 chainsaws for cutting trees and untold numbers of cots for shelters. They’ve been working with the State Police and PennDOT to helping clear roads. In the coming days, Craig said, transporting food and water is likely to be the big mission.
Lt. Col. Larry Dugan pointed to 10 pallets of bottled water being loaded up for a mission to Monroe County.
“We also have a… mission right now for 125,000 meals that are coming into Fort Indiantown Gap for distribution,” he said. Corbett asked someone to fetch him an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat), and handled it as reporters gathered round.
He said it’s too soon to tabulate the cost for these efforts, even though the Guard is tracking expenses on a daily basis.
“We want to gather that information because we’ve got to turn that over to the federal government, OK,” said Corbett. “And hopefully we will be reimbursed for a lot. Because we have expended a great deal of state – I shouldn’t say great deal – we’ve expended state resources. I don’t know how much we’ve expended.”
The state could be reimbursed for some costs if President Obama declares a major state of emergency in Pennsylvania, or in the states that used Pennsylvania resources during storm recovery.
No supplies yet have come in from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Craig said he expects deliveries Wednesday.
Also expected Wednesday: activation of the Guard’s aviation units. Corbett said helicopters will be on standby in case there’s a need to survey remote areas damaged by the storm. He said he would go, too, weather permitting.
“Any chance I get to get in a helicopter, I’m taking it,” said Corbett.