CAP aircrews wrap Midwest flood response

CAPCivil Air Patrol aircraft and personnel from seven Midwest states have returned home after providing nearly 360 hours of flight time supporting disaster relief efforts in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

“Our mission is complete,” said Illinois Wing Maj. Eric Templeton, who directed CAP’s ARCHER flights over the Red River Valley as well as other parts of North Dakota from the organization’s flood response mission base at Fargo’s Hector International Airport.

The Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance, or ARCHER, is flown aboard CAP’s Australian-built Gippsland GA-8 aircraft. Developed a few years ago specifically for Civil Air Patrol to aid in search and rescue, homeland security and disaster relief, ARCHER is one of the most sophisticated non-classified airborne imaging systems in the world, according to CAP officials. It provides high-resolution and hyperspectral imaging capabilities through two advanced sensors on board each CAP Airvan.

CAP sent aircrews from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin to the Fargo mission base. The aircrews flew 160 still photography and ARCHER flights, delivering 1,100 images and 1,270 gigabytes of ARCHER information to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the North Dakota Emergency Operations Center, U.S. Geological Service, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Federal and state emergency management officials used those images to determine the extent of the flood along the Red River, as well as other rivers and tributaries as they crested and to help analyze the integrity of several earthen dams. The images also helped officials improve the snow melt models used to predict water levels for the river and its tributaries.

“This provided more than just situational awareness,” said Capt. Nash Pherson, a Minnesota Wing volunteer who helped coordinate the ARCHER flights. “We were able to rapidly provide high-resolution imagery that could be pulled into the mapping systems used by emergency response decision-makers.”

More than 30 CAP members utilizing four GA-8 Airvans and 12 other aircraft supported ARCHER.

While ARCHER was out collecting data, other aircrews often used the 12 support planes at the Fargo mission base “to provide ice jam patrols all over the state as well as still images of rivers and tributaries,” said Lt. Col. Bill Kay, the incident commander for North Dakota Wing. “Our crews worked the Missouri, Knife, Heart and Cannonball rivers in central North Dakota, while others flew the James, Sheyenne, North Red, Forest and Park rivers on the eastern side of the state from the North Dakota-South Dakota border to Canada. We are still doing that even today, albeit at a lesser degree.”

Similar activities were repeated in South Dakota, on the rivers and tributaries in the Mount Rushmore State. Capt. John Seten, South Dakota Wing’s incident commander, said aircrews provided overflights of flooded areas of the state and took geographically tagged aerial photographs of ice jams and flood damage for the state’s Office of Emergency Management.

For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com.

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