By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (8/24/11) -- As of 10:00 a.m. EST, the Puerto Rico National Guard has about 800 Guard members performing cleanup operations in the wake of Hurricane Irene striking the island Aug. 21, Guard official said today.
When it hit Puerto Rico, Irene was only a tropical storm, but has since grown to become a category three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, with sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph and the potential to cause devastating damage.
Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Vicens, the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard, is reassuring the citizens of Puerto Rico that "their Citizen-Soldiers are ready and have the experience and equipment to support the cities affected by the tropical storm."
"The Soldiers are going to be working for the well-being of the community until needed," he said.
With about 10 inches of rain causing flooding and mudslides, 51 percent of the island has lost power as of today.
Officials are also reporting that about 118,000 citizens are without water, but the water supply has not been contaminated.
Guard members will be providing assistance with transportation, communications, urban search and rescue, public safety and security support as well as the prepositioning of mission essential equipment.
They will continue to support local and state response efforts with the cleanup and removal of debris to essential transportation routes.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the eye of Hurricane Irene is currently located just east of Cuba. They are predicting it to move toward the west-northwest at about 9 mph and to reach the Islands of the Bahamas today.
Current forecast models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have Irene potentially reaching the Georgia-South Carolina coastline by the early morning hours of Friday.
No East Coast states have activated their National Guard units as of now, but Guard officials have said they are prepared for the potential landfall of Irene.