One week after Hurricane Florence hit South Carolina, the South Carolina Civil Air Patrol changed part of its mission from the air to the ground.
During the week after the storm, the Civil Air Patrol took aerial photos of the damage and flooding in South Carolina. In its second week, the CAP now has crews on the ground taking photos and measuring the height of the water.
“We’ve had ground teams go out and do various tasks for FEMA and the state looking at floodwaters or looking at road conditions and reporting it back through various applications on a phone or tablet,” SC Wing Lt. Col. Chris Peterson said. “We’re tracking the flood. We’re tracking the waters as they move to the coast.”
Portions of northeastern South Carolina received initial damage from Florence. Now floodwaters from nearly three feet of rain that fell on North Carolina are making it into the river basins in South Carolina.
Peterson said this is the first time CAP members have been deployed on the ground in South Carolina.
“It seems to be fairly successful,” he said. “The ground team mission that we’re doing both looking at floodwaters and looking at road conditions, that’s something new. We’ve not done that before on a FEMA mission.”
Peterson said the duties now are similar to the post-hurricane response last week.
“We have known locations now where we’re responding to,” he said. “Where, at first, it was kind of a really wide area. Now we’ve got a pretty good detail of where we need to focus our resources.”
The teams assisted FEMA with post-flooding data collection by documenting the high water marks left after Florence. They also photographed the high-water marks and uploaded those pictures to a FEMA database.
Teams coordinated with mission base in Columbia.
Peterson said the CAP has been using two technologies to photograph the flooded areas from the air.
“It’s taking an angled photograph from a small aircraft. This is really good to assess water on bridges, water levels on dams, flooding on houses and buildings, so you can get that height elevation of the photograph,” he said. “We also take what’s called a vert, which is a straight-down shot. The straight-down shot really helps with how big the flooded area is.”
Peterson said the even though the all-volunteer CAP has been working on the disaster response for two weeks, they will work as long as it takes and they’re getting help from CAPs from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Maryland.
“We expect that to continue for many more days,” he said.