Ohio Air National Guard assisting with recovery efforts from the sky

Ohio Air National Guard assisting with recovery efforts from the sky (WKEF/WRGT)

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - While search and rescue efforts continue on the ground in Texas, the Ohio Air National Guard in Springfield is helping from the sky.

Their base is a thousand miles away from Houston, but inside they can view the damage from a unique perspective, helping first responders save lives.

It’s hard to imagine the full extent of Hurricane Harvey's destruction, but with a bird’s eye view it’s easier to get the picture.

“We can only hope we help make the recovery faster,” Col. Rebecca O’Connor said.

A team of analysts with the 178th Wing have trained for this moment. They're using maps, satellite images, and FEMA databases to help emergency crews make a game plan.

“Anything we can do outside of that disaster zone helps free up those people that are on the ground trying to do those rescue efforts,” O’Connor said.

Wednesday, they identified chemical plants at risk of exploding. They're also watching water levels and searching for open spaces to place command centers.

“That's why we’re looking at roadways airports and railway and if that infrastructure is open and can be utilized,” O’Connor said.

Team leader Audrey Kawanishi says they'll soon have access to aerial pictures taken by the Civil Air Patrol.

“As the clouds move out in the imagery starts coming in will be able to help out even more,” Kawanishi said.

These analysts are working long shifts, but are used to it. They helped with the West Virginia floods last year and are part of a larger effort.

“There are units around the country, nine other units that are doing the same thing,” Kawanishi said.

An important function you rarely think of. But Col. O’Connor says it's essential to understanding the devastation.

“It's devastating and my thoughts and prayers are with all those people in Texas,” O’Connor said.

The Ohio National Guard currently does not have plans to send troops to Texas, but are ready if needed.

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