By Danielle DeSimone

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Sept. 20, 2018.

As the East Coast is hit by Hurricane Florence and the military mobilizes to serve as hurricane relief, the USO is supporting service members deployed to the disaster zone.

Florence – downgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend – made landfall in South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Virginia early Friday morning, Sept. 14.

South Carolina National Guard soldiers preform preventative maintenance checks to unit vehicles in preparation of Hurricane Florence.
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South Carolina National Guard soldiers preform preventative maintenance checks to unit vehicles in preparation of Hurricane Florence.

South Carolina National Guard soldiers load gear into a Humvee in preparation of Hurricane Florence.
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South Carolina National Guard soldiers load gear into a Humvee in preparation of Hurricane Florence.

Airmen prepare to deploy to Bluffton, South Carolina in advance of Hurricane Florence.
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Airmen prepare to deploy to Bluffton, South Carolina in advance of Hurricane Florence.

South Carolina National Guard soldiers conduct pre-flight checks before lifting off ahead of Hurricane Florence.
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South Carolina National Guard soldiers conduct pre-flight checks before lifting off ahead of Hurricane Florence.

South Carolina Army National Guard soldiers stage recovery equipment to provide support for disabled vehicles during the lane reversal of I-26 in North Charleston, South Carolina during evacuations for Hurricane Florence.
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South Carolina Army National Guard soldiers stage recovery equipment to provide support for disabled vehicles during the lane reversal of I-26 in North Charleston, South Carolina during evacuations for Hurricane Florence.

South Carolina National Guard soldiers fuel tanker trucks for distribution in preparation of Hurricane Florence.
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South Carolina National Guard soldiers fuel tanker trucks for distribution in preparation of Hurricane Florence.

The governors of all three states have declared a State of Emergency and have deployed the National Guard, the Coast Guard and other branches of the military to standby for potentially devastating rainfall and floods. There has already been 16 inches of rainfall with a projected 20 more inches on the way.

Currently, roughly 1,500 members of the National Guard have been activated in Virginia and 4,000 have been mobilized in South Carolina. North Carolina has also activated its National Guard, with 2,800 called to active duty and an additional 7,000 ready to mobilize when needed, according the the Defense Department.

The National Guard of Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska and Oklahoma have all deployed units to support search and rescue missions in the wake of the storm.

Mobile USO Team Preps for Florence

In response to this military mobilization, the USO is in position to support the thousands of service members who will be deployed along the storm’s path.

Currently, the Mobile USO Program team has stocked its Big Blue Mobile USO vehicles with hygiene kits, water, snacks, entertainment and connectivity. On Thursday, one of the Big Blue units arrived at the National Guard Armory in Conway, South Carolina, while the second unit is staged at the National Guard Armory in Marion, South Carolina.

The USO of Metropolitan New York’s Sprinter vehicle has arrived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while the USO of North Carolina’s mobile unit is standing by in Raleigh to support as needed.

Additional USO employees from locations as far away as California and Texas are on standby to support the Mobile USO Program team with manpower, supplies and logistical assistance now that the storm makes landfall. The USO will adjust its travel route and locations based on flooding and need.

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USO Centers in North and South Carolina Brace For Impact

At USO South Carolina, USO staff and volunteers continue to prepare care packages and snack packs for members of the National Guard who are stationed near the coastline to act as first responders.

The USO of North Carolina served dinner to more than 450 members of the Coast Guard and their families on Thursday, Sept. 13, to support them as they evacuated from Camp Lejeune.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard prepare for Hurricane Florence.
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Members of the South Carolina National Guard prepare for Hurricane Florence.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.
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Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.
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Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.
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Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers package and load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.
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Members of the South Carolina National Guard volunteer with the USO to help prepare care packages for service members supporting hurricane relief efforts.

USO South Carolina staff and volunteers load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.
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USO South Carolina staff and volunteers load care packages for service members providing hurricane relief along the east coast.

While the Mobile USO Program team works to support our service members throughout their hurricane relief efforts, centers that were in the path of the storm have taken appropriate precautionary measures in the aftermath of the storm and support any activated military members as requested.

If you live near a USO location in Hurricane Florence’s projects path, check with your local USO center for updates to any schedule programs or events.

Hurricane Florence Aftermath

At least 36 people have been killed in storm-related incidents along the east coast and more than 8,100 people are currently taking refuge in shelters, according to CNN. Flooding has damaged homes, businesses and even major highways.

The USO continues to support service members and the military community via centers and our mobile units, which have provided snacks, water and much-needed downtime for members of the National Guard currently activated in South and North Carolina for search and rescue missions.

Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.
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Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.

Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.
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Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.

Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.
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Members of the National Guard take a well-deserved break at our USO Mobile Units, which are stationed in South Carolina, in between search and rescue missions.

– USO Content Strategy Manager Sandi Moynihan contributed to this report.