MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Months before the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, members of the 169th Communications Squadron’s Eagle Vision IV (EV4), Mobile Ground Satellite Station at McEntire, were already acquiring optical images of the high priority targets provided by Mr. Scott Brown, the Chief of Preparedness at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD). By the time Hurricane Florence developed on September 4, 2018, EV4 had already acquired 130 pre-hurricane images of the state of South Carolina.
EV4 is one of five DoD deployable, commercial satellite ground stations in the world. They provide customers with commercial satellite imagery of locations within their 1,300-mile visibility circle, reaching as far as Canada, South America, Texas and the mid-Atlantic Ocean. The primary mission is to disseminate imagery to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and various other government agencies during natural disasters. EV4 can also be used to support mission planning, time-critical targeting and non-war related operations. First responders use the images to create disaster response plans. This is done by comparing the post-event images with pre-event images to identify any changes to the infrastructure, such as damaged or destroyed buildings, bridges and roads.
Once experts predicted the storm would make landfall somewhere around the states of North and South Carolina, EV4 started calling-up South Carolina Air National Guard Drill Status Guardsmen to State Active Duty for hurricane support. By September 10, EV4 had a total of 10 members (4 full-time and 6 DSGs) supporting the South Carolina National Guard Hurricane Florence support efforts. Two members worked at the SCEMD, 7 worked from the EV4 building at McEntire and one worked remotely from Germany.
On September 4, Hurricane Florence developed as the 3rd hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. On September 9, President Donald Trump declared a State of Emergency in both North and South Carolina, making federal assistance and service available. Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14, at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane, with wind speeds up to 140 mph. Its large storm surge combined with heavy rains and slow movement resulted in widespread flooding in the Carolinas. Parts of I-4, I-95 and U.S. Route 60 were impassible for days. By September 17, Florence continued to weaken and turned to the northeast. The storm resulted in 35 deaths and an estimated $45 billion dollars in damage.
On September 10, EV4 members assigned to the SCEMD reminded members of the Preparedness and J2 (Intel) sections about the pre-hurricane imagery available to them and began soliciting for imagery requests. EV4 worked imagery requests from the following organizations: SCEMD J2, FEMA, USGS, NORTHCOM and the North Carolina Joint Operations Center. They acquired a total of 122 combined images of during and after the storm. A total of 252 images of pre, during and post-storm. All images were made available in the EVR2EST.us online database.
The Ohio Air National Guard’s178th Wing, Unclassified - Processing Analysis and Dissemination (U-PAD) unit was tasked to help support the SCEMD Hurricane Florence efforts. In the end, the Ohio U-PAD developed eight graphical information products using EV4 obtained images.
As Hurricane Florence support efforts began to wind down, Hurricane Michael developed in the Gulf of Mexico and predictions were made for it to make landfall in Florida and then travel through South Carolina. Following their process, the EV4 team was able to upload 39 pre-Hurricane Michael images to the EVR2EST.us online database.
Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018, between Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida as a Category 4 storm with wind speeds up to 155mph. Michael devastated the Florida coastline and was the strongest hurricane of the season and the third strongest on record to make landfall in the United States. The storm then traveled as predicted across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. On October 7, President Donald Trump declared a State of Emergency for Florida, making federal assistance available. As of October 20, Hurricane Michael was the cause of at least 36 deaths and an estimated $8 billion dollars in damage.
When Hurricane Michael was all said and done, Eagle Vision acquired a total of 120 combined images during and after the storm. All images were made available in the EVR2EST.us online database. Jeffrey Cohr with Air Forces Northern, Air Combatant Command, 705th Combat Training Squadron, sent a note to EV4 stating, “Awesome, thank you!” for providing imagery of Tyndall Air Force Base, allowing Mr. Cohr to identify structural damage on the base caused by the storm. Dr. Ran Goldblatt with New Light Technologies, Inc. (CTR), FEMA in Washington, D.C. sent a note to EV4 stating, “The data [EV4] provided us was extremely useful to our team. We have now transitioned to the recovery phase of this event, and there is no need for collection of additional imagery.”
Because Eagle Vision has the capability to quickly acquire near real-time unclassified satellite imagery, they are highly sought after and utilized during most natural disasters within their visibility circle. The EV teams most often provide images for events such as fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. They have supported first responders' efforts during Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and the earthquakes in Haiti. Other than hurricanes, these events usually occur quickly and with no warning; therefore the team is required to work extra unplanned hours.
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