With another potentially massive flood looming in North Dakota’s Red River Valley and other Midwestern states, members of Civil Air Patrol’s North Central Region are standing ready.
Melting snow from larger-than-normal amounts of snowfall this winter is expected to flood the Red River Valley in the weeks ahead. Forecasters predict it may be worse this year than last, which is bad news for Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Both cities withstood massive flooding a year ago, with the Red River reaching a record 40.84 feet in Fargo. National Weather Service hydrologists say there is a 98% probability of major flooding in Fargo and Moorhead and other cities throughout the Midwest this spring, as snow melts and rivers and their tributaries begin to thaw.
“Some rivers in South Dakota and Nebraska have already reached or are over flood stage,” said North Central Region Incident Commander Col. Joe Casler. “As you know that doesn’t necessarily mean they are out of their banks, but the possibility is definitely present.”
Civil Air Patrol’s Nebraska Wing has already flown two sorties “to check the ice jamming/flooding potential on the Platte River in eastern Nebraska,” according to Wing Commander Col. Bob Todd, who flew the most recent sortie.
“On the region level, we developed a new flood response plan and will implement that should it be needed,” Casler said. “Iowa is having an exercise in two and a half weeks that will focus on a flood response and aerial photography of vulnerable infrastructure in the eastern part of the state. As we saw in North Dakota last spring, this will be a very challenging time of the year for our members, but I know they will respond well.”
CAP’s North Central Region includes seven Midwestern states – North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. CAP members in all seven states will be prepared to duplicate its extraordinary efforts of a year ago, Casler said.
Flying in support of the state of North Dakota in the spring of 2009, CAP aircraft and aircrews from all 11 squadrons in the North Dakota Wing took more than 5,000 digital photos of the Red River and other major rivers in the state, including the Missouri, Knife, Heart, Souris, Sheyenne, James, Wild Rice and Maple Rivers.
The monumental effort involved North Dakota Wing’s five aircraft, flying out of bases at Minot, Dickinson, Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks to provide the state’s emergency responders with a “real-time” picture of the flooding.
From March 20 to April 16 last year, CAP aircrews made 95 flights totaling 230 hours, capturing and sending photos to the State Emergency Operations Center. The CAP imagery alerted decision makers of potential damage to vital infrastructure, which bolstered the emergency response.
The 2009 flood relief response prompted Greg Wilz, state director of emergency services, to declare, “CAP is like the cavalry for North Dakota. We couldn’t have responded as well as we have without them.”
In addition to the aerial surveillance, the North Dakota Wing assisted citizens on the ground with sandbagging in flooded areas in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Beulah. Other volunteers from North Dakota’s neighboring Minnesota and South Dakota wings also helped.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 59,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the AFRCC with saving 72 lives in fiscal year 2009. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to the more than 24,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 68 years. For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com.