HUNTINGTON - While West Virginia will remain hundreds of miles from Hurricane Dorian's expected havoc, military units based in the Mountain State have headed south to meet the coming damage along the Atlantic Coast.
The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit of Huntington deployed to Augusta, Georgia, early this week, holding until it can be determined where the storm will make landfall.
Six members of MSU Huntington, joined by two more from the Coast Guard's Ohio River Sector in Louisville, will staff three swift-water rescue teams on MSU Huntington's three shallow-draft jon boats. Supplied with chain saws and fire axes for whatever debris and obstacles they may face, the MSU Huntington team will join a coordinated effort with other Coast Guard units and local first responders, said Lt. J.G. Collin McClelland, agency representative for MSU Huntington.
This is the first hurricane response for McClelland, a Virginia Beach native recently transferred from Juneau, Alaska. MSU Huntington regularly travels to major hurricane scenes across the country, most recently for Hurricane Florence last year, and hurricanes Matthew and Harvey in years prior.
"Our team has been involved with several hurricanes, so there's a wealth of knowledge for me to draw from," McClelland said, speaking from MSU Huntington's posting in Georgia.
McClelland said there's no timetable on when MSU Huntington will return from deployment.
The West Virginia National Guard also is headed south this week as Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday authorized sending crews, aircraft and equipment to South Carolina at the state's request. The request called for two MedEvac helicopter units and search and rescue teams.
The two crews of four guardsmen left for the South Carolina Army National Guard flight facility Wednesday and will remain through the next week.
"We, as West Virginians, are all too familiar with the devastating effects major storms can have on communities," Justice said in a statement. "We will absolutely do everything we can possibly do to help the people in the path of Hurricane Dorian."
West Virginia's National Guard still has four MedEvac helicopters and three crews remaining in the state, according to Justice's office. The response to South Carolina will be paid for through the Governor's Contingency Fund until South Carolina can reimburse West Virginia.