As the floodwaters start to recede along major rivers in the upper Midwest, Civil Air Patrol continues to assist both state and federal authorities in their assessment of flood damage to local communities.
Aircrews from CAP’s North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota wings are flying a wide variety of missions in support of state emergency management authorities as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These include digital imaging missions as well as equipment and personnel transport.
Col. Joe Casler, Emergency Services Officer for Civil Air Patrol’s North Central Region, which includes all three of the Midwest states where flooding is occurring, said CAP air crews and ground teams have been especially busy over the past four days. Through Monday, March 23, Casler reported 103 air sorties and 43 ground sorties were executed. “We were most active through the weekend,” he said.
Missions included ice jam photography over the Missouri, Sheyenne, Cannonball, Forest, Park and Red rivers as well as smaller rivers and tributaries across the state. These operations continue.
“Half of their flights are dealing with ice jams,” said Casler, noting that an ice jam in North Dakota on the Sheyenne River caused it to rise above flood stage near Lisbon. Jams have also caused water to spill over from the Sheyenne River in the Kindred area, which is temporarily reducing flows downstream into a West Fargo diversion channel and in the Harwood area. Once the jams break up around Kindred, the water level will rise again slightly at both West Fargo and Harwood and then remain steady due to back water from the Red River.
CAP has also deployed three planes equipped with ARCHER (Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance) from the organization’s Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio wings to North Dakota to provide state emergency officials and other agencies, including FEMA, with high-resolution imagery to better survey the impact of flooding there as well as in Minnesota. The ARCHER imagery is being used to determine the extent of the flood inundation along the river as it crests, help analyze the integrity of several earthen dams and to help improve the snow melt models used to predict water levels.
In South Dakota, aircrews from Sioux Falls and Brookings flew a photo mission March 23, concentrating on flooding in Aberdeen, around Waubay, and other towns on the James and Elm Rivers. An aircrew from Spearfish and Rapid City flew a mission to survey flooding on the Grand River in west central South Dakota.
Casler said CAP’s flood-response operations in the Midwest are going well. “Everybody concerned has that one year of experience,” he said, referring to volunteers who worked similar missions in response to Midwest flooding in the spring of 2009.
Flying in support of the state of North Dakota, 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 in 2009. CAP aircrews made 95 flights totaling 230 hours, capturing and sending aerial photos to North Dakota’s State Emergency Operations Center. The CAP imagery alerted decision-makers of potential damage to vital infrastructure, which bolstered the emergency response.
In addition to aerial photography, volunteers from the North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota wings assisted citizens on the ground in 2009 with sandbagging in flooded areas in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Beulah. That effort was duplicated this year, thanks to help from more than 75 Minnesota Wing volunteers.
“I think we got a good jump on the flooding this year,” Casler said. “Our members were ready for it.”
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