Civil Air Patrol members in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands worked today to re-establish stable communications and plan aerial missions after Hurricane Irma barreled past the islands and headed for Florida.
Col. Barry Melton, Southeast Region commander, said Puerto Rico operations were relocated from San Juan to Aguadilla on the commonwealth’s northwestern tip, the most distant point from the storm’s impact, before Wednesday's landfall.
Melton noted, however, communications between the mainland and units in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remained a challenge Thursday night.
Melton said he anticipates the wing’s Cessna planes, secured at Muniz Air National Guard Base in San Juan, will be deployed for missions tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 1st Air Force as soon as aircrews can be safety deployed.
"Southeast Region members are rolling up their sleeves to aid in the recovery efforts that will be needed for some time to come," said Melton, whose command includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
He said high-frequency radio contact has been restored with CAP units in the U.S. Virgin Islands. CAP’s squadron in St. Croix was working to erect a directional antenna to enhance communications with colleagues in Puerto Rico, Melton said.
The Florida Wing spent today in preparations for Irma’s anticipated arrival early Sunday on the state’s eastern side. Forecasters warn Irma could be worst hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Col. Luis Garcia, Florida Wing commander, said his wing was relocating planes and flight crews to the state’s Panhandle region for future deployment after the hurricane makes landfall. Garcia said he has received offers of support from CAP operations in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Illinois.
“We are meeting nightly with all stakeholders to synchronize efforts across the wing and ensure continuity with adjoining wings,” he said, urging his volunteers to stay “safe and vigilant.”