Meteorologists have been predicting Winter Storm Jonas
to be one of the most epic storms to hit the East Coast in recent history.
While much of the accumulated snowfall impacted the states further Northeast,
North Carolina received its own wintry mix of snow, freezing rain, winds and
damaging ice Jan. 21-24, 2016.
The winter conditions posed a significant threat to
Citizens in North Carolina and in response the NCNG has been working with State
Emergency Response partners, mobilizing 100 Guardsmen in Eastern, Central and
Western North Carolina to support local authorities.
“Leading up to the event, we have meteorologist on
staff who were monitoring the situation, keeping an eye on what’s happening in
the forecast for weather that’s headed towards North Carolina,” said Mike
Daniska, assistant director for Planning and Homeland Security, North Carolina
Emergency Management. “They communicated that [forecast] with our director for
emergency management and senior staff and we began to have coordination
meetings leading up to the activation of the State Emergency Operations
The North Carolina Emergency Management shares its
headquarters with The North Carolina National Guard at its Joint Force
Headquarters home in Raleigh, having cemented a working relationship on a day
to day basis.
“We began having meetings internally with emergency
management Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we had a State Emergency Response
Team meeting and conference call with our State Emergency partners- The North
Carolina National Guard being a key part of the SER Team,” Daniska said.
As centralized planning took place at JFHQ, the
support roles and target areas across the state were being mapped out.
“We reached out to the counties around the state to
begin to identify what resources might be needed in response to the event,
feeding that up to our branches who communicate it to our staff here,” Daniska
said. “During the coordination meeting where the Guard is present, the Guard
identifies the resources they have on-hand that they can supply within the time
that it is needed.”
Soldiers with the NCNG were alerted with short notice
to prepare for state active duty, a tasking not unfamiliar to the NCNG who
provide forces for domestic operations and emergencies at the call of the
“We pretty much got out here in a hurry with all our
stuff,” said Capt. Michael Carpenter, team leader, West North Carolina State
Emergency Branch. “That’s why they call us minutemen I guess, because we can
respond rather quickly.”
The 100 mobilized Guardsmen were divided up into
Winter Storm Catch Team Force Packages and Armory Support Packages, deployed
and staged in Asheville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Hickory, Marion, Mocksville,
Mount Airy, Raleigh and Statesville.
“A big part of emergency management and emergency
response is the recovery period,” said Daniska. “Activities are ongoing.”
Collectively the teams aided North Carolina Citizens
and local authorities throughout the day and night, rescuing stranded motorist,
doing health and wellness checks, shelter support, communications support and
The brunt of the winter storm effected the Western
region of the state, where significant snowfall and icy conditions caused
hazards for citizens and added to local authorities becoming overwhelmed with
Soldiers with the NCNG, equipped with HMMWV (Humvees),
shovels and other emergency equipment provided a needed assistance to the area.
“We knew there were going to be transportation issues
and we rely very heavily on the National Guard to help us with those high
clearance vehicles with all-wheel drive in order to get access to those remote
areas,” said Greg Atcheley, planning section chief, Regional Coordination
“We have four Armories that we are dispatching out
of,” said Carpenter. “We have teams at each one of those Armories, and they are
spread out in Western North Carolina, able to respond to surrounding counties.”
Carpenter, who is an engineer Soldier with the 130th
Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Charlotte, North Carolina, is familiar with
state active duty, recently serving with fellow Guardsmen in flood response
efforts to South Carolina in October, 2015.
“It’s the best part about being in the Guard,” said
Carpenter. “Serving your hometown, serving locally, doing things humanitarian
wise, whether it’s home or abroad.”
Those sentiments were shared by another Soldier, on
his first SAD mission, serving as a member of one of the Winter Storm Catch
Teams in Asheville.
“I was called Thursday morning and told to report to
the Armory as soon as possible,” said Sgt. Colin Kalescky, assigned to the
105th Military Police Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “We got
everything set up and started staging vehicles, making sure they were running
Kalescky and his partner, Spc. Kevin Thomas worked for
hours on end, driving around the roads of Asheville, assisting residents and
local authorities. The two Soldiers took every opportunity to help anyone in
“My Soldier and I went to breakfast over at IHOP, and
while eating, two homeless individuals came in and they couldn’t get over to
the shelter because the bus system shut down,” said Kalescky. “We offered to
transport them but they did not feel comfortable riding in the Humvee, so we
contacted the local police department to escort them to the shelter.”
“I’ve had similar personal situations with family
members in those incidents,” said Kalescky. “They need help too, and you can’t
just look past them, so you offer them whatever help you can.”
The opportunity to impact the lives of other local
citizens did not take long to present itself, as the effects of the winter
storm proved to be a challenge for many, effecting them in different ways.
“Around 6:30 this morning we got the call that an
elderly man needed assistance with transport to a dialysis treatment,” said Kalescky.
“We immediately got into our vehicles and made our way to his home.”
“I called 911 and evidently they got me in contact
with the National Guard, who brought me here,” said Charles Harbison an 86
year-old resident of Asheville, North Carolina.
Harbison and his wife were trapped in their homes,
unable to leave due to the ice and snow. Harbison who has medical issues with
his kidneys, could not miss his dialysis treatment at the Davita Kidney Care
Center 20 miles away.
“Normally we have a van that picks us up, but they
couldn’t run in this kind of weather. Normally I ride the van there and my son
picks me up,” said Harbison.
Kalescky and Thomas picked Harbison up in their
Humvee, carefully escorting the thankful Harbison to his treatment, which lasted
four hours. The two Soldiers did safety checks on abandoned vehicles in the
area while they waited for Harbison to be done.
After Harbison completed his treatment, the two
Soldiers just as carefully as before, loaded him back into the Humvee and transported
him home, as the snow began to fall again.
Guiding Harbison to his front door, through inches of
snow, Kalescky led the life-experienced citizen to his wife who waited with at
the screen door, noticing the amount of snow they had to go through to get
It wasn’t a second thought for Kalescky to offer to
shovel the steps and walking path for the elderly couple, as Thomas began to
salt the ground and retrieve the mail at the curbside mailbox for the couple.
“I knew they helped people out, but I didn’t know they
helped people out on this level,” said Harbison.
The Harbisons thanked the Soldiers continuously for
their help and support.
Winter Storm Jonas proved to be a challenge for
residents of North Carolina, but the Soldiers of the NCNG, local authorities,
and emergency partners took on that challenge with them and were able to
respond in dynamic ways.
“You go home and tell your family what you did and you
are making a difference,” said Carpenter. “It’s very satisfying that we can
assist the public like we do.”