Guard Rescues Residents from Rising Waters and Reinforces Levee
MONROE, La. – When excessive rain caused flooding earlier this month, the Louisiana Army National Guard literally put together a concrete plan to protect this community in Tangipahoa Parish.
Guard members from the 1022nd and 844th engineer companies out of West Monroe, La., worked with the Tensas Levee Basin District to transform a half-mile of hinged concrete slabs that normally serve as a sidewalk along the Ouachita River into a 6-foot-tall levee.
“This levee is a modular system that can be put up and put down in a day or two,” said 1LT Sean Place of West Monroe.
Elsewhere, search, rescue, and recovery of residents stranded by floodwaters dominated the Guard’s efforts to support Tangipahoa Parish emergency operations.
These efforts took on added urgency when parish authorities shut down electricity to many neighborhoods to prevent house fires. Residents who had planned to ride out the flood began to request rescues as their homes heated up and refrigerators stopped humming.
The Guard’s primary tools for emergency operations were M1078 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTVs), flat-bottom aluminum boats, Zodiac Mil-Pro inflatable boats and Bridge Erection Boats. Each was employed for maximum effectiveness depending on the requests for support generated by Tangipahoa emergency operations.
The mission’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge, SGT Kenny Devalcourt, had been instructed to survey low-water crossings and bridges. If waters had receded to less than six inches, his team’s instructions were to remove the barricades to permit civilian vehicle passage.
In certain areas, Devalcourt and his team had to wade the waters – three-across – in front of the LMTV as it forded through crossings and bridges to verify the quality of the road beneath their feet and identify possible sunken obstacles that could impede or damage the high-water truck.
Besides, as SGT Micah Lonigro explained, “This gets us out of the truck and into the action, and it’s what we’re trained to do.”
One mission involved rescuing an elderly resident who began to suffer medically after his electricity was shut down. The boats on hand didn’t have the power to cross the strong currents to get to him, so the Guard dispatched two Bridge Erection Boats (BEBs) to accomplish the mission.
BEBs are sturdier and more powerful, making them essential when strong currents make more typical rescue watercraft impractical, said COL Rodney Painting, commander of the 225th Engineer Brigade in Alexandria.
Parish President Robby Miller expressed his gratitude for the Guard’s help.
“We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without the Louisiana National Guard’s work. Your support helped make our search and rescues efforts successful in that we suffered no casualties or injuries. I know things might have turned out differently if the Louisiana Guard hadn’t come through.”