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NY National Guard puts 188 on duty over two days for Polar Vortex weather event

NY National Guard puts 188 on duty over two days for Polar Vortex weather event

Story by Eric Durr on 02/01/2019

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. The New York National Guard placed 188 Soldiers and Airmen on duty Jan. 30 and 31, as extremely cold temperatures and lake effect snow hit the Buffalo and Niagara region and the region between Syracuse and Watertown.

“As New York deals with another extreme weather system, I urge all New Yorkers to be diligent, take the necessary precautions to remain safe and avoid any unnecessary travel,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “New York will continue our efforts to place personnel, equipment and assets throughout upstate New York as the polar vortex has brings dangerously low temperatures and creates hazardous travel conditions.”

The displacement of a mass of cold air known as the Polar Vortex caused temperatures as low as – 12 degrees Fahrenheit and was also expected to produce additional snow.

Dangerous wind chills were predicted for most of the state starting Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, ranging anywhere from 15 to 35 degrees below zero.

The Arctic blast was expected to produce heavy lake effect snow northeast of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Lake effect snow continued southward over the metro Buffalo area and the Tug Hill Plateau areas throughout the day Wednesday.

In western New York, up to 24 inches of snow could fall, the governor said during a morning press conference on Jan. 30 in Cheektowaga.

“There is an increased risk for frostbite and hypothermia due to the dangerously low wind chill temperatures,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers are advised to stay indoors. If you must be outside, limit your exposure and dress in several layers. Frostbite can occur in less than 20 minutes. Keep pets inside as much as possible.”

The governor and western New York local officials urged people to avoid travel and closed several key roads in western New York because of the weather.

On Jan. 30 the 107th Attack Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station stood up a 20-Airman immediate response force equipped with five Humvees while the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse also stood up a 20 Airman, five-vehicle force.

These forces were in place that morning to provide mobility assistance as required with 10 Airmen on duty and 10 ready to come on duty later as part of a 24-hour mission. The Soldiers and Airmen were also prepared to conduct weather related health and welfare checks in support of local police if required.

The Airmen from the 107th supported a press conference held by Cuomo in Cheektowaga in which he outlined state and local efforts to mitigate the storm’s impact.

The 53rd Troop Command also stood up a 20-Soldier response team at the Masten Avenue Armory in Buffalo, while the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat team alerted a second Army National Guard team at the Thompson Road Armory on Hancock Field Air National Guard Base on Jan. 30 as well.

On the afternoon of Jan. 30, state officials decided that the extreme cold temperatures and snow squalls might require additional guard assistance so more Soldiers and Airmen where place on weather response duty.

Both the 42nd Infantry Division and the 53rd Troop Command stood up additional 20-Soldier immediate response forces. One came on duty in Syracuse at the Thompson Road Armory and a second was in place at the Masten Avenue Armory in Buffalo.

Forty Soldiers from Joint Task Force Empire Shield –the security augmentation force in New York City– were moved to Buffalo and Syracuse, along with vehicles, to provide additional capability. Twenty Soldiers were sent to Syracuse and 20 to Buffalo.
Additional Soldiers and Airmen provided logistics support and mission command.

By Feb 1, with the worst of the very cold weather and snow abating, the Soldiers and Airmen were released from state active duty and the Joint Task Force Empire Shield teams returned to New York City.

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