17:26 PM

Harvey Flooding Response Ramps Up in Texas, La.

Incident Commander in Texas Foresees 120 Flight Hours, Up to 100,000 Photos Today

Lt. Col. Amos A. Plante
Public Information Officer
Louisiana Wing

Lt. Col. Johanna Augustine
Public Information Officer
Texas Wing

As Tropical Storm Harvey departed Southwestern Louisiana on Thursday, the Louisiana Wing’s air and ground resources were activated to support the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in their recovery efforts in the flood-devastated Lake Charles area.

Using Lake Charles Regional Airport as a staging area, CAP aircraft from home bases around the state were tasked by GOHSEP to fly four aerial photography sorties over the city itself and surrounding storm-impacted areas.

One plane and aircrew were directed to identify and photograph damaged infrastructure and other targets of interest along the Calcasieu Ship Channel. They also flew eastward along the state’s Gulf Coast looking for and photographing possible damage resulting from tidal storm surge.

The CAP aircrews’ photos were flown back to the Lake Charles staging area, processed and delivered to GOHSEP. Information derived from these images enabled the agency’s emergency managers to more quickly and accurately determine how to direct recovery resources and personnel.

Louisiana Wing’s support for GOHSEP is being directed by Lt. Col. Charles Smith, CAP incident commander and a member of the Gen. Claire L. Chennault Senior Squadron in Monroe in northern Louisiana.

“CAP volunteers can produce near-real-time aerial views of storm damages at very low cost to our clients,” Smith said. “We’re doing that today for GOHSEP."

Civil Air Patrol’s efforts in Louisiana come a day after CAP’s aircrews began flying for the state of Texas and FEMA along that state’s coastline and in and around Houston. As in Louisiana, CAP members are taking photos of key infrastructure and resources over communities ravaged by the then-Category 4 hurricane, which was accompanied by torrential rains that prompted unprecedented flooding in south central Texas.

On Thursday, CAP planes based at Texas’ San Marcos Regional Airport flew 40 hours for the state of Texas and FEMA. Today, 11 planes are continuing aerial imagery flights over a large area of southeastern Texas, capturing photos of flooding and other damage caused by Harvey. The aircraft, based at San Marcos Regional Airport,

The CAP aircrews in Texas will focus on two primary missions. “Sixty percent of the CAP flights will take place in the Beaumont and Port Arthur areas,” said Lt. Col. Rick Woolfolk, incident commander. “The river hasn’t crested in that area, so the full extent of the damage isn’t known yet.” Those flights will document conditions at several state and federal prisons in those areas.

The remainder of today’s flights will continue to document damage along several Texas rivers, including the Colorado, Brazos and San Jacinto. Flights along the Lower Trinity River will cover the area from the Lake Livingston Dam north of Denton to Galveston Bay. The Sabine River will be photographed from Bon Weir to Orange, including several railroad bridges.

In a briefing Friday morning at the incident command post in San Antonio, Woolfolk anticipated 40 sorties today totaling about 120 hours of flight time and producing from 80,000-100,000 photos.

More than 170 CAP volunteers from 20 states are participating in the mission. Woolfolk said 28 planes are on hand.

“We are fortunate to have (so many members from across the organization) gathered together, initially because of our National Conference,” said Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, CAP national commander. “It’s not unusual to get these numbers together very rapidly,” he said, for the organization’s responses to major national disasters like Harvey.

“I really have to commend the volunteers that are turning out with Civil Air Patrol to work the mission, bringing aircraft in, flying numerous hours under sometimes challenging conditions to assist the nation and to provide the quality images that our first responders need to get the mission done.”

Woolfolk agreed on the National Conference's timing, which he said "allows us to use a number of people from around the country we would not normally have the privilege of having available to us. It has been a huge help."

Once the conference ends Saturday, CAP will relocate its command post from San Antonio to another location that "is closer to where the damage is," he said.