Northeast Region aircrews' aerial images of damage from Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and (3-4) Rhode Island.
On the job in the Northeast Region’s command center for Hurricane Sandy missions are (clockwise, from bottom left) Lt. Col. Walt Brown. New Hampshire Wing homeland security officer; Col. Dale Hardy, wing assistant director of operations; Maj. Richard Courtney of the Rhode Island Wing’s South County Composite Squadron; Lt. Col. Skip Guild, New Hampshire Wing director of operations; Capt. Matt Towsley, operations officer for the New Hampshire Wing’s Greater Nashua Composite Squadron; Col. Bill Moran, New Hampshire Wing commander; Lt. Col. Ron Volungus, Northeast Region deputy chief of staff for operations; Col. Dave Braun, region director of operations; and Capt. Don Norris, assistant squadron activities officer for the New Hampshire Wing’s Seacoast Composite Squadron.
Photo by Maj. Paul Kelly, New Hampshire Wing
Maj. Penny Hardy
Public Information Officer
Area Coordination Center
Capt. Robert Stronach
Director of Public Affairs
NEW HAMPSHIRE – Northeast Region aircrews expect to make 16 more flights today and 20 Friday as they continue assessing damage from Hurricane Sandy, with some also looking for people possibly stranded in deep snow in West Virginia.
The flights follow 25 damage assessment sorties carried out Tuesday and Wednesday. The first aerial missions took place Tuesday as soon as winds subsided sufficiently, as aircrews photographed damage to the coastal areas of Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, along with Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island and Rhode Island’s Block Island.
CAP members also conducted flights over Maryland and Delaware in CAP’s neighboring Middle East Region, which includes West Virginia.
“It’s a large cooperative effort between the Northeast Region and Middle East Region,” said Lt. Col. Paul Ghiron, Northeast Region director of emergency services.
The Northeast Region mobilized aircrews and other personnel before Sandy struck the northeast coast, launching two flights over Connecticut and Rhode Island, staffing emergency operations centers in each state, sending liaison officers to three Federal Emergency Management Agency regions, staffing the New York City Joint Emergency Management Center and helping the Red Cross load supplies onto trucks in New York.
"So far our response is on the order of what we did last year with Hurricane Irene," Ghiron said, "but we expect to eclipse that.
“We expect to do hundreds of sorties and obtain thousands of images for FEMA,” he said.
The region’s central command post in New Hampshire is pulling aircrews from all nine wings – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont – in the Northeast Region, Ghiron said. Hundreds of members are involved in the air and on the ground, including officers and cadets providing assistance to Red Cross shelters in New York and New Jersey.
The storm’s impact varied widely from state to state.
In Rhode Island, “there are whole houses completely moved and places where houses are no longer there,” said the wing’s commander, Col. Benjamin Emerick. “There are a lot of boats mixed in, too.”
His wing has “been flying the past two days, in between the bad weather bands,” Emerick said.
The Rhode Island Wing has been averaging 3½ flights a day, with multiple aircrews using the wing’s lone CAP plane Tuesday and Wednesday and generating about 600-700 digital damage assessment photos of the state’s storm-battered coastline, he said.
Wednesday morning, he said, FEMA’s director of operations for the state received a bird’s-eye view of the coastline courtesy of one aircrew.
In addition, aircrew members have used one of the Rhode Island National Guard’s Geospatial Information Interoperability Exploitation – Portable kits to provide live video of portions of the flights to the state Emergency Operations Center.
The Maine Wing’s aerial missions actually began a few days before the storm neared, with two flights carried out Sunday to supply 63 aerial photos of the state’s coastline south of Portland.
“The state was pretty proactive,” said the wing’s commander, Col. Dan Leclair said. “That way, they would know the extent of the damage.”
The Northeast Region established its Area Coordination Center after a meeting and conference call with available personnel Monday. The center opened Tuesday morning in Concord, N.H., as the storm was bearing down on the area.
Ghiron said the Northeast Region is unusual in that it overlaps three FEMA regions – six New England states in Region 1, New York and New Jersey in Region 2 and Pennsylvania in Region 3. The command is responsible for receiving taskings from the FEMA regions and relaying them to the involved wings to carry out.
The center is being staffed from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily by 10 to 15 CAP members from the Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island wings. Lt. Col. Paul Mondoux, Northeast Region director of safety, and Lt. Col. Robert Shaw, the region’s chief of staff and commander of the New Hampshire Wing’s Hawk Composite Squadron, have been designated as the area incident commanders.
For full coverage of CAP's role in the response to the superstorm, check VolunteerNow's Hurricane Sandy page.