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WV National Guard members to help after Hurricane Irma

AP photo
Knocked-over power poles was one easy-to-spot part of the damage from Hurricane Irma in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month.

A dozen members of the West Virginia Army National Guard have been deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Members of the National Guard’s critical infrastructure assessment team left the Mountain State for the Virgin Islands on Wednesday to help the Virgin Islands National Guard damage evaluate its infrastructure after the storm.

Hurricane Irma made its way across the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane earlier this month, hitting several Caribbean islands before making landfall in the Florida Keys last weekend.

Media reports said the damage was “catastrophic” to the Virgin Islands, and could take months to recover from. Dozens of people have been reported dead in the Caribbean in Irma’s wake, and hundreds were still reported missing.

The West Virginia National Guard’s critical infrastructure assessment team works to assess the state’s infrastructure and ensure safety — especially in the wake of disasters, storms or other events. The team left West Virginia on two planes Wednesday.

“Here in West Virginia they keep a close eye on infrastructure, and evaluate it to ensure safety,” said Lt. Col. Todd Harrell, a spokesman for the West Virginia National Guard. “This group from West Virginia is kind of well-known in the nation, they’re very experienced.”

The team from West Virginia will work closely with members in the Virgin Islands to help them assess the damage after the storm and make plans for next steps, Harrell said.

West Virginia’s critical infrastructure assessment team is often called upon nationally to help in the wake of disasters or to help with training in other states.

“Unfortunately West Virginia has had more than its share of flooding and things like that,” Harrell said.

The West Virginia National Guard has also worked closely with the Virgin Islands National Guard for several years, Harrell said, so lending a helping hand after the hurricane was a natural step.

The team from West Virginia will help the islands conduct initial damage assessment and plans to stay to help until the assessments are complete.

Reach Carlee Lammers at Carlee.Lammers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @CarleeLammers on Twitter.

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