FARGO, N.D. — With spring flooding nearing high-water marks once again in the Red River Valley, volunteers from Civil Air Patrol’s North Dakota Wing are flying daily, using the latest in digital airborne photography equipment to help emergency management officials assess damages and deploy assets to the region.
“We’ve been flying multiple sorties – four or five flights a day – for about a week now,” said Lt. Col. William E. Kay, the wing’s interim commander.
CAP’s aircraft provide the perfect vantage point for reconnaissance photos, which are tagged with the date and GPS coordinates. The photos are providing emergency response decision-makers with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the latest information they need to assess damages and deploy assets throughout the region.
The flooding in the Red River Valley is starting to peak in Fargo, the state’s largest city, Kay said, with much of the floodwaters from a record winter snow pack and iced-over ponds and lakes “rolling north now.” The Red River flows north along the North Dakota and Minnesota border toward Grand Forks, ultimately reaching Lake Winnipeg in Canada.
Such a mission is a ritual each spring for the North Dakota Wing as well as other CAP wings in the upper Midwest. “We started in earnest on March 16 and made practice flights even before that,” Kay said. “And we’ve been going at it since.”
In spring 2010, CAP aircraft and volunteers from seven wings provided nearly 360 hours of flight time and delivered thousands of photos supporting disaster relief efforts in North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as South Dakota. The images were used to determine the extent of flooding along the Red River and other rivers and tributaries as they crested, as well as to help analyze the integrity of several earthen dams. They also helped officials improve the snow melt models used to predict water levels for the river and its tributaries.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with more than 61,000 members nationwide. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, 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 113 lives in fiscal year 2010. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction 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 26,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 69 years. For more information: GoCivilAirPatrol.com