SCANG EV4 Supports “Superstorm Sandy’s” First Responders
By Capt. Roy Condrey, 169th Communications Flight
/ Published January 03, 2013
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- Days before Hurricane Sandy or what some media outlets refer to as "Supestorm Sandy" made its land fall near Atlantic City, NJ, the members of the 169th Communications Flight Eagle Vision IV (EV4) Mobile Ground Satellite Station located at McEntire JNGB, SC were already acquisitioning optical images of the United States east coast. Most satellites only pass over a certain area once daily, so the team knew to work ahead of the anticipated customer's requests for images.
They also knew that once Superstorm Sandy hit the coast line they would lose optical visibility due to the heavy cloud cover. They decided to go ahead and submit a request for radar images from RadarSat-2 that is based out of Canada. RadarSat-2 was chosen because it forms images by measuring radar wave return times and patterns and is therefore unaffected by cloud cover.
By the time the storm had passed over, it had washed and eroded many barrier islands, flooded streets, and had caused massive power outages. Overall Superstorm Sandy affected 24 US states; destroyed thousands of homes, killed over a hundred people, and left behind billions of dollars in damage.
Many federal and state government organizations pulled together to track, monitor and assist in the recovery of Superstorm Sandy. EV 4 assisted the effort by providing first responders with the most currently available pre and post commercial satellite images of the devastated area.
Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) Pete Wiedel oversaw the operation and interfaced with the System Program Office regarding funding, personnel availability, and customer requests. Master Sergeant (MSgt) Eddie McManus and Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Dennis McDougal were charged with reception of data on the Data Acquisition Segment (DAS) as well as maintenance issues that came up during the entire collection period. MSgt Troy Wilkerson was charged with processing and dissemination of the imagery to multiple customers such as: EVR2EST, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), The States of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York's Joint Operations Centers (JOCs) and Air National Guard Command Centers.
First responders used the images to create a disaster response plan that included identifying routes into areas that needed assistance. This was done by comparing the new images with pre-disaster images to identify any changes to the infrastructure such as damaged or destroyed buildings and roads.
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 FEMA, USGS and various other government agencies during natural disasters, but EV4 can also be used to support mission planning, time-critical targeting and non-war related operations.
When it was all said and done the EV4 team along with their sister unit EV6 in Huntsville Alabama collected, processed and distributed more than 20 products of satellite images from the RadarSat-2, RapidEye 1-5 and Spot-5 satellites. The products were mainly disseminated to the various agencies via FTP uploads and through email.
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, tornados, hurricanes, etc. They have supported first responder's efforts during Hurricane Katrina 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. "That is the nature of the job", stated MSgt Wilkerson, "it's all worth it, we are always ready and willing to help in disaster recovery efforts at home and abroad."