Civil Air Patrol is providing aerial reconnaissance as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force as rivers and tributaries in North Dakota and South Dakota continue to rise.
The Red River was expected to crest this weekend at 38 feet in the Fargo, N.D./Moorhead, Minn., area. Members of CAP’s North Dakota and South Dakota Wings have assisted with preparations for flooding in the two cities by helping fill more than 1 million sandbags. The mission changed its focus from filling sandbags to aerial surveys last week, including a flight by the North Dakota Wing of Absaraka near Casselton to check reports that the dam has failed.
“We knew ahead of time this mission was coming our way, and we were ready for it,” said Col. Steve Kuddes, CAP’s North Central Region commander. “I am proud of our outstanding members in all of the affected wings. They took their own time to prepare before these floods, and their work is outstanding.”
On March 17, North Dakota aircrews surveyed Beaver Creek from the Missouri River to Linton, Spring Creek from Linton to the northeast and the Heart River. They also surveyed the Cannonball River to the Missouri River and Upper Heart River. The wing conducted surveys March 16 of the Missouri River from Bismarck to Garrison Dam. It also surveyed Apple Creek from three miles north of I-94 to the Missouri River and the Knife River from Marshall to Hazen.
Aircraft and crews are assembling at the “Skunk Works” mission base at Fargo’s Hector International Airport. A plane from Minnesota Wing equipped with CAP’s ARCHER aerial imaging system was tasked with surveying the Red River from the South Dakota border to the Canadian border for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of North Dakota.
Down the river in South Dakota, survey flights continue in support of the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management. Thursday, March 18, the wing flew survey missions of the rivers in the eastern and western parts of the state. Areas of emphasis included Watertown, Brookings, Aberdeen and Huron in the east. In the western part of the state, where flooding has not been as severe, the focus was on capturing images around Moreau, Grand Forks and the Cheyenne River to establish a baseline for potential damage assessment if floods impact those areas.
Two air crews surveyed the James River north of Mitchell and the Big Sioux River, Big Stone Lake, the Yankton River and an area around Groton, S.D., on March 17. The wing surveyed flooding on the James, Big Sioux and Vermillion Rivers on March 16. “The state (of South Dakota) is greatly impressed by the photos they have seen.” said Col. Mike Beason, the mission’s incident commander.
Earlier this week, 75 members of the Minnesota and North Dakota Wings assisted with sandbagging. They totaled more than 750 hours of flood support and worked on protecting 30 homes in the Fargo/Moorhead area.
“Their support was very impressive,” said Lt. Col. Erik Ludlow, North Dakota Wing’s ground operations director.
Operations were scaled back today as Fargo, Moorhead, Cass and Clay counties reported their sandbag barriers are almost complete.
“We will be monitoring the situation throughout the evening and tomorrow morning.” said Ludlow.
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.