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South Carolina Air National Guard's Eagle Vision IV supports Texas flood

U.S. satellite image of Bastrop, Texas area. The red polygons indicate flooded areas or bodies of water.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Eagle Vision 4, 169th CF/Released)

U.S. satellite image of Bastrop, Texas area. The red polygons indicate flooded areas or bodies of water. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Eagle Vision 4, 169th CF/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- Recently the members of the 169th Communications Flight Eagle Vision IV (EV4) Mobile Ground Satellite Station, located here, provided images to support the flash-flood recovery efforts taking place in Texas.

During Halloween night, Texas received severe thunderstorms that drenched the state with up to 14 inches of rain, causing flash floods and threats of tornados. The strong winds knocked down power lines and the flash floods swamped over 500 homes, that led to the evacuation and rescue of over 100 residents. A motorist in Austin was killed when he was swept out of his vehicle by the rushing water. In some cases, residents had to cut holes in their roofs to gain access to the outside. The storm continued to impact parts of La., Ill. and Tenn. on its way to New England.

Due to the heavy cloud cover over the flooded areas, Master Sgt. Eddie McManus and Staff Sgt. Dennis McDougal, EV4 Data Acquisition Segment (DAS) operators, worked with SPOT 5; a French Satellite Image provider, to acquire multispectral imagery. They also worked with RADARSAT 2; a Canadian provider, to acquire cloud-penetrating, radar images. Once the images were obtained, they handed them over to Master Sgt. Troy Wilkerson, Data Integration Segment (DIS) operator. Wilkerson immediately decided to apply a technique that he first used while supporting the floods in Colorado. The technique involved overlapping an aerial image with a transparent radar image. He called a colleague and subject-matter expert, Mr. Derrold Holcomb of Intergraph Government Solutions. Holcomb assisted Wilkerson with the process of interpreting the radar images to identify the flooded areas. Once that was accomplished, Wilkerson highlighted the flooded boundaries with bright red. Next he made the radar image transparent enough to overlap over an aerial image of the same area. The final product clearly marked all bodies of water within a bright red boundary.

Wilkerson distributed the final product to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the EVEREST database and the University of Texas, Center for Space Research.

"Eagle Vision's rapid delivery of satellite imagery with delineated areas of inundation, gave the Texas Division of Emergency Management a comprehensive view of the state of flooding along the Colorado River downstream from Austin. Multispectral imagery from the SPOT 5 satellite has also helped to identify areas that are currently water-saturated and preconditioned to flood quickly, if heavy rainfall occurs over the region during the next week," stated Dr. Gordon Wells, a member of the Governor of Texas Emergency Management Council and the State's Science & Technology Advisor for Emergency Management since 2003 at the University of Texas.

There are currently five Eagle Vision DoD-deployable, commercial satellite ground stations. They are located in S.C., Ala., Calif., 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. They also 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. Eagle Vision has supported first responders' efforts during the recent floods in Colorado, Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, as well as tornado and fires in the mid-west. 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.