13:55 PM

S.C. Ground Teams Gathering Flood Marks, Submerged Road Photos for FEMA

1st Lt. Rachael J. Mercer
Public Affairs Officer
South Carolina Wing

Part of the South Carolina Wing’s role in responding to flooding from Hurricane Florence changed over the weekend, as four ground teams were deployed throughout the state to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency with measuring high-water marks in specific locations.

FEMA defines high-water marks as “physical marks resulting from floods and flash floods that designate the location and elevation of floodwater from a storm event.”

The Civil Air Patrol ground teams were tasked with identifying mud or silt lines, noting debris lines or debris snags (where debris was washed into trees or shrubs), and identifying lines of seeds, fibers and minuscule debris that floated on the water before being left behind in shrubs and trees.

Finding those tell-tale signs of flooding was just the first step in completing the mission. The teams also were tasked with downloading the FEMA app for reporting such data and ensuring their cellphones had functional GPS. They were responsible for recording and photographing the high-water marks using measuring tapes, rulers and yard sticks and then uploading those images directly to a FEMA database.


“There were targets we were given and as we drove to those places, there were many we couldn’t access because everything there is still underwater,” said Lt. Col. Nikki Shaffner, the South Carolina Wing’s chief of staff and a member of one of the ground teams. ‘

“I saw flooded yards and flooded houses and so much devastation. It was really heart-wrenching to know what some people in South Carolina are going through,” Shaffner said.

Ground assignments changed again Sunday, as FEMA and the National Guard assigned two teams to examine 110 flooding-affected county roads throughout the state

“Our ground teams are tasked with providing information to FEMA, the National Guard and engineers to determine what resources need to be used in which locations regarding roads in the state,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Fulgham, planning section chief for the Florence mission and commander of the Virginia Wing’s Langley Composite Squadron.

CAP, acting as the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, is supporting Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) during Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations following the landfall of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast. AFNORTH’s primary role is to support U.S. Northern Command’s efforts to provide assistance to FEMA's relief efforts.