CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Tractor trailers sit on the ramp at the West Virginia Air National Guard Base in Charleston awaiting further instructions. Every few minutes a semi would pull to the gate, the driver would get his orders, and he was on his way.
“We centralize it here and the state coordinates with the central distribution points,” said Lt. Colonel Jim Dulin. “They send us an order through the DOH dispatcher, we take the order, and send out the trucks.”
Several of the trucks hauling the precious cargo of bottled water had police escorts into distribution points in the Charleston city limits. Others headed out to remote locations to deliver water which is being distributed to the more than 300,000 affected by the contamination in a nine county region.
During past disasters like the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy, water was delivered to the air base and off loaded onto National Guard trucks. Dulin said this is a different kind of emergency.
“Everything is so close and everybody wanted so much water,” he said. “You don’t want to double handle, that’s a lot of work.”
So many of the trucks hauling the water from Cumberland, Maryland to Charleston wait around for a half hour to two hours to get their deliver orders. Dulin said the National Guard is poised to take care of deliveries if a distribution point needs a smaller amount, but so far that hasn’t happened.
“It’s FEMA’s show, but it takes a lot of coordination,” Dulin said. “Our job as a base is to give them space. If they need a electricity or a light fixed, we handle little things. If they need a box of pens, it may not sound like a big deal, but if you need one, you need one.”