New York Aviators Respond to Hurricane Irene
By Eric Durr
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs
LATHAM. N.Y., Sept. 2, 2011 New York Army National Guard aviation units have logged 150 hours of flight time and transported 60,000 pounds of food and water to isolated mountain towns and central distribution centers as New York state officials continue to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
New York Army National Guard aviation soldiers Sgt. Larry Sloan, left, and Sgt. Jason Dolan, center, and other troops load food into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Army Aviation Support Facility 3, Aug. 31, 2011, in Latham, N.Y., as part of state emergency response efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene. New York Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Drumsta
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The first flight of New York Army Guard aviators occurred Aug. 28, just after the brunt of the storm passed over the state. Aviators flying from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Albany International Airport flew south into Greene County to see if they could assist in rescuing people who were stranded by rising flood waters in the town of Prattsville. The stranded civilians were rescued before the helicopters were needed that night.
At first light the next day, the citizen-soldier aviators began flying surveillance missions so state officials could begin to assess the impact of the storm. On both Long Island, where Hurricane Irene first hit, and Catskill Mountain towns where small creeks became raging rivers, the Guard’s UH-60s provided eyes in the sky.
In a joint operation, three New York Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters, which had been evacuated from their base on Long Island to escape the storm, were dispatched to Schoharie County to conduct search and rescue missions if necessary.
The Task Force Aviation team also provided transportation to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate so they could conduct a tour of flood-ravaged regions.
The aviators began hauling food and water Aug. 30 and 31.
CH-47D Chinook helicopters assigned to B Company of the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation, picked up FEMA supplies flowing into Stewart Air National Guard Base. The supplies were loaded into the Chinooks and flown to Belleayre Ski Center, a state-owned facility in Highmont in Ulster County.
At Belleayre, UH-60s from the Albany flight facility picked up water and food and airlifted them into Margaretville, Prattsville, Middleburgh and other Greene and Schoharie County mountain towns which were not easily accessible by road.
Other flights carried food and water donated by the Regional Food Bank of northeastern New York. Soldiers packed the UH-60s full of food and bottled drinks and sent them on their way.