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Kentucky nurses, National Guard deploy to help in Florence aftermath

By Beth Musgrave | Lexington Herald-Leader

Members of the Kentucky National Guard and state public health nurses left over the weekend to help with Tropical Storm Florence evacuation and rescue efforts as the storm continues to bash the East Coast, causing widespread flooding.

Some 10 Kentucky public health nurses left Sunday morning to go to North Carolina to help staff emergency evacuation shelters. Florence hit the coast as a hurricane and evolved to a tropical storm as it moved inland.

According to information provided by state health officials, the 10 public health and administrative staffers were set to leave from Frankfort Sunday morning. They included staff from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, Bracken County Health Department, Department of Insurance, Kentucky Department for Public Health and Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness. The team is expected to be gone for at two weeks, state officials said.

In addition, members of units of the Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky Air National Guard have also been deployed.

About 60 members of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade were headed to Raleigh, N.C., according to a release. That unit will set up a command center there to help with rescue efforts.

“This is one of the best parts of being a Guardsman, answering the call for help from citizens of our neighboring states,” Col. Dwayne Lewis said in the release. “As an aviation unit, we know the expertise we bring is sometimes the only hope that those in need may have, and we take the mission of supporting our neighbors and rendering life sustaining aid very seriously.”

Ten members of the Air National Guard 123rd Special Tactics Squadron were deployed on Saturday. Two members were deployed before Saturday to help coordinate search and rescue efforts. The 123rd helped with hurricane-recovery efforts last year, deploying more than 40 airmen to help with Harvey, Irma and Maria. During those missions the airmen rescued 336 people in Texas and evacuated 1,286 stranded people in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Seifert left for Virginia on Wednesday and Capt. Hunter Williams left for South Carolina on Thursday before the storm making landfall. Seifert is a search-and-rescue liaison in Virginia. Hunter is the air-ground liaison in South Carolina.

“Our airmen are on a heightened state of readiness so they can respond rapidly as needed,” said Col. Jeffrey Wilkinson, commander of the Louisville-based 123rd Airlift wing. “Disaster response is one of our key missions and we are prepared to provide any assistance necessary.”

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