CAP's S.E. Region Members Stand Ready to Assist after Michael Landfall
By Lt. Col. Andrew Oppmann
Southeast Region Director of Public Affairs
The commander of Civil Air Patrol’s Southeast Region asked its volunteer Airmen to stand ready to assist Florida and other states as Hurricane Michael made landfall this afternoon as a powerful Category 4 storm.
Col. Barry Melton said CAP, the U.S. Air Force civilian auxiliary, was expecting to be called to service first in Florida, then likely in Alabama and Georgia, as Michael makes its way inland from the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm is the largest on record to hit the Florida Panhandle, with winds clocked up to 155 miles per hour.
“Our first priority is to ensure our CAP members and their families are safe and that our members are able to respond to assigned missions,” Melton said.
“We also stand by to assist the Carolinas as the storm passes through those states, just as we did after the passage of Hurricane Florence."
Melton said CAP’s primary tasking will be to provide aerial imagery to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which allow leadership “to make decisions and prioritize their response in the disaster zones.”
CAP's Southeast Region includes about 10,000 members serving in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, as well as Tennessee, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Florida Wing Commander Col. Luis Garcia said his members moved all aircraft to hurricane-rated hangars and out of the storm's path earlier this week. Other assets, including mobile communications trailers, were also moved to safe locations, he said.
“The wing has finalized preparations for responding to Hurricane Michael,” Garcia said. “We are standing by for any response.”
He urged his members, who serve their communities and state as unpaid volunteers as part of CAP’s disaster service mission, to “be safe in all your actions.”
“Please keep our fellow CAP Airmen who are in Hurricane Michael’s path in your thoughts,” Garcia said in a message to the Florida Wing.
After responding to four major hurricanes in two years, Southeast Region personnel demonstrated their expertise in preparation and readiness well in advance of Hurricane Michael.
Georgia Wing Commander Col. Andrea Van Buren said this will be the fifth major storm to hit her state since 2016. She said Michael’s fast-moving winds and wide path required a slightly different strategy than its predecessors.
“This particular storm is moving north-northeast through a much wider area of the state, so even middle Georgia could have 120 mile-per-hour winds,” she said. “Our team is constantly evaluating and updating our plan to respond to changing conditions.”
Preparation for Hurricane Michael began four days before landfall, with initial notifications to begin securing CAP assets, she said. Wing personnel were tracking the evolving situation and providing on-going updates to units throughout Georgia.
Meanwhile, Van Buren said Georgia Wing also has secured its aircraft and other disaster-response assets and “stands ready around the state for post-storm response.“
She added, “As always, our first priority is the safety and security of members and their families.”