The response role for the Arkansas National Guard continues to expand after a deadly tornado swept through the central Arkansas communities of Mayflower and Vilonia, a press release said Monday.

In addition to the 54 soldiers called to state-active duty overnight to assist local authorities with traffic control, search and rescue and medical evacuation, an additional six Guard members delivering several freshwater trailers to support the needs of local residents and volunteers.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management also passed a request from the Faulkner County Judge at 9 a.m. today for the National Guard to provide a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew to conduct low level aerial search over the shoreline of Lake Conway and through the wooded areas in the path of the storm for additional victims.

Initially, 46 members of the Arkansas National Guard were called to state active duty to assist local authorities in the affected communities. That first call-out and subsequent responses from Guard members brought the grim realization that numerous Guardsmen and their family members were directly impacted. Within the first few hours following the storm, both Army and Air National Guard members began to check in with their commanders and on each other — neighbor-to-neighbor.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the Arkansas National Guard has confirmed that one member perished when the tornado struck the community of Vilonia. The name is being withheld awaiting full notification of next of kin.

Additionally, dozens of Guard members’ homes were damaged or destroyed, and an unconfirmed number of family members were injured or hospitalized.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe summed up the situation in a 10 a.m. press conference in the community of Mayflower.

“These are Arkansans helping Arkansans, like they always do. Neighbor helping neighbor in a time of need,” Beebe said.

Beebe made note that multiple state agencies, nearby communities and a large number of civilian volunteers have responded to help. From a national perspective, Beebe indicated that the federal government pledged to make resources available to help in the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated communities.

- GateHouse Media