Civil Air Patrol pilots and observers flying sorties out of Sumter and Columbia were instrumental in delivering flood assessment images from high above the flood waters to analysts on the ground who could then get the information to the agencies who needed to have it.
Information that would have taken more than a few hours, if not days, to gather on the ground could be snapped with a digital camera, uploaded to a server and disseminated within a couple of hours.
“The Civil Air Patrol South Carolina Wing has been flying patrols and taking pictures and doing damage assessments to see what’s been damaged and what’s at risk since Monday (Oct. 5), really,” pilot Johnathan Bryan said Sunday evening as he and pilot and observer Maj. Lewis Mayes stopped at the CAP base at Florence Regional Airport.
“Today what we’re doing is coming back and rephotographing things that were photographed earlier in the week to get a comparison of then and now,” Bryan said.
Maj. Louis Mays Jr. Said the pilots are out there “to pick up on any unusual circumstances, people that might still be on roofs, somebody who might have been missed or overturned vehicles in an area where traffic isn’t usual. People tend to try to get off road and find their own path out. We’re just looking for anything unusual.”
Also a pilot, Mays on Sunday was flying as observer and cameraman.
“It always makes you feel good to know you’re helping out your fellow man,” he said.
Bryan called it “follow-up work.”
“There’s a lot of standing water in the areas that have trees and forests and fields and stuff,” he said. “There’s some areas where the roads have been cut. If you get low enough you can see barriers that have been put up in place.”
Bryan said he is seeing fewer houses surrounded by water than he saw early last week.
“When we get back home tonight, we’ll upload images from the 35mm camera to a website so they can be analyzed,” Bryan said.
On Sunday, Bryan and Mays were flying a Cessna 182, a larger version of the CAP’s other plane, the Cessna 172.
The Cessna 172 offers pilots approximately four hours in the air; the 182 offers up to six hours. The additional time gives pilots and observers time to loiter over a target or situation when required, Mays said.
On Sunday, the mission was to fly the Little Pee Dee River, some parts of the Black River and some specific bridges, Bryan said.
Other missions the two have flown during the flood included Kershaw County, the Wateree River as far north as Great Falls and lower Colleton County.
“I think a lot of people stepped up trying to help any way they could, and we’re just fortunate that we’re able to help this way,” Bryan said.