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Swamp Fox Eagle Vision IV supports Midwest tornado recovery efforts

SPOT 5 satellite image, provided by the 169th Communications Flight at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard’s Eagle Vision 4 team, shows a panchromatic five-meter image of a tornado path going through Washington, Ill. on Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard satellite image courtesy 169th CF, EV4/RELEASED)

SPOT 5 satellite image, provided by the 169th Communications Flight at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard’s Eagle Vision 4 team, shows a panchromatic five-meter image of a tornado path going through Washington, Ill. on Nov. 17, 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard satellite image courtesy 169th CF, EV4/RELEASED)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Recently members of the 169th Communications Flight, Eagle Vision IV (EV4), mobile ground satellite station, located at McEntire, provided images to support the recovery efforts of one of the largest tornado outbreaks in eight years. The storm tore across parts of seven Midwestern and Southern states during this past November.

According to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, "Nov. 17 appears to have tied for the third most tornadic day on record in Indiana history."

The severe weather killed at least 10 people and injured up to 300 others. Multiple communities were decimated by the tornados and thousands of customers were without electric power. The damages caused by the storms have been estimated to cost more than $1 billion in economic losses. On Nov. 27, President Obama signed a declaration ordering federal aid for the areas affected after the storms.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eddie McManus and Staff Sgt. Dennis McDougal, EV4 Data Acquisition Segment (DAS) operators, worked with SPOT 5 and SPOT 6 satellites to acquire 103 optical images of the disaster areas in Montana, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Once the images were obtained, they handed them over to Master Sgt. Troy Wilkerson, the Data Integration Segment (DIS) operator. Wilkerson then mosaicked the images (stitched them together) and highlighted the tornados' paths. He then distributed the final products to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) database, so that the National Weather Service and Indiana Air National Guard could use them for their research and analysis.

The Eagle Vision Program consists of five DoD-deployable, commercial satellite ground stations that are located in South Carolina, Alabama, California, Hawaii and Germany. They each provide customers with near real-time commercial satellite imagery of locations within their 1300-mile visibility circle. Eagle Vision Stations are used to collect and disseminate imagery to various government agencies such as FEMA and USGS during natural disasters, as well as support mission planning, time-critical targeting and non-war related operations.

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 EV4 teams most often provide images for events such as fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. They have supported first responders' efforts during Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, as well as tornado and fires in the Midwest. Other than hurricanes, these events usually occur quickly and with no warning; therefore the team is required to be prepared to react and work unplanned hours.