ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Governor Bill Walker has sent a letter to his Puerto Rican counterpart, Governor Ricardo Rosselló, expressing concern for the island's population after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
"I would like to express our deepest concerns for you, Beatriz, and the people of Puerto Rico as you respond to a natural disaster and resulting crisis of historic proportions," said Walker.
Walker pledged "any and all assistance in the coming weeks and months" and the support of all "State departments when needed."
Walker says the Alaska National Guard began supporting the relief efforts in Puerto Rico on Wednesday.
“The 176th Wing provided a C17 Globemaster transport jet to deliver supplies and personnel to aid Puerto Rico in the recovery from Hurricane Maria. Currently, the Alaska National Guard Joint Staff is preparing a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) with 10 personnel (Airmen and Soldiers) to enhance current communications capabilities in Puerto Rico. The team and equipment is scheduled to deploy within 48 hours, pending airlift availability,” wrote Walker.
Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a public information officer for the Alaska National Guard, confirmed they are deploying to Puerto Rico. Olmstead sent information that explained the JISCC is a "20-foot, tented communications on a trailer with its own generator and satellite dish. It can move to a storm forward location via a flatbed."
The JISCC was first used during the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the performance was deemed successful, the National Guard bought 100 more units.
Alaska is sending the Airmen and Solders to operate the systems along with a chaplain and a chaplain's assistant.
In the letter to Rosselló dated September 28, Walker referenced the logistical challenges Alaska and Puerto Rico share in not being “physically connected to the contiguous 48 states.” Walker also gave a personal reflection of his experience of the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and that natural disasters can be felt for decades.
Walker advises that people who want to donate money to Puerto Rico use the government’s dedicated webpage.
The original article did not contain information directly from the Alaska National Guard, it has been amended to reflect that update.