Two Alaska Army National Guard rescue helicopters and their crews left Anchorage Monday, joining the expanding relief effort in North and South Carolina for former Hurricane Florence.

Nearly two dozen Army Guardsmen with the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment departed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson headed to the East Coast, according to an Alaska National Guard statement. They and their helicopters were carried on a C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet, flown by the Alaska Air National Guard’s 144th Airlift Squadron.

“The 207th’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with hoists and specially trained crews,” Guard officials wrote in an overview of the deployment. “The 300-foot hoists can carry up to 600 pounds and allow for aircrews to provide aeromedical evacuation, rescuing people, and retrieving and delivering equipment and supplies where landing is not possible.”

Gov. Bill Walker visited JBER to speak with the Guardsmen before their departure.

"I think it's unique we're being asked to come down from Alaska -- not only because we're the best, because we have unique equipment that can help out in this situation," Walker told the Guardsmen. "I just wanted to stop by personally and thank you."

The deployment is the Alaska Guard’s second to assist East Coast residents as they recover from Florence, which arrived over the Carolinas last week and is continuing to cause torrential rains.

More than a dozen people including a 1-year-old boy have died during the weakening storm, as major evacuations continue Monday for severe flooding expected this week across much of North Carolina.

Dave Leval contributed information to this story.

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