- Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
Members of the Ohio National Guard’s 178th Wing in Springfield spent last week assisting with relief efforts and gathering data after heavy rains caused flooding in several Southern Ohio counties.
Guard members from Springfield have previously responded to flooding in states like Texas, West Virginia and South Carolina, said Lt. Col. Audrey Kawanishi, incident awareness and assessment coordinator with the 178th Wing in Springfield.
“We’ve been the go-to unit in the nation for a while,” she said.
This time, eight members of the unit collected and organized data to provide information for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, she said.
State officials are still working to assess damage from the flooding, said Jay Carey, a spokesman with the Ohio EMA. Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency in 17 counties in the state.
As part of their mission, local Guard members collected information, including satellite images and photos of the flooding in the affected areas to provide a single resource for state EMA staff to determine how best to protect infrastructure, including wastewater treatment plants and determine whether facilities like nursing homes are at risk.
On Feb. 27, Guard members traveled by helicopter with members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol to survey flood damage from the air.
“Pictures are worth a thousand words and that’s what we provide them with,” Kawanishi said of the Ohio EMA.
Springfield-based Guard members focused primarily on areas in Clermont and Brown counties, as well as California, Ohio, a neighborhood in Hamilton County. They also surveyed venues such as the Riverbend Music Center, Coney Island and the Belterra Casino to assess damage, she said.
“It was pretty substantial in those areas,” Kawanishi said of sites like Coney Island. “The water park is now truly a water park.”
Springfield guard members were eager to provide assistance in their home state, she said. While local guard members have often provided assistance in other regions of the U.S., this provided an unusual opportunity to provide assistance locally, she said.
Most of the members who provided assistance were ready to respond within hours of learning about the mission, she said.
Springfield-based guard members have been providing assistance since Feb. 26, and their mission was expected to end March 1, although Kawanishi said the unit was prepared to stay on through the weekend if necessary.
Guard members in Springfield have kept open lines of communication with state EMA officials for years to ensure the Guard was prepared to respond in case of an emergency, she said.
“It’s really to help people, protect property and save lives if needed,” Kawanishi said. “We’re trying to help the public.”