As Florence is Downgraded, CBP Upgrades Its Storm Relief Efforts
Officials monitor rising floodwaters, responding where needed
As Hurricane Florence degrades to a tropical storm and torrential rains and flooding replace damaging winds,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection people deployed to the Carolinas and surrounding areas ramp up their efforts to help where needed. A total of about 150 CBP officers, aircrew members and Border Patrol agents went to the region ahead of the storm and are now assisting federal, state and local emergency responders. That group, along with more on standby, are helping in several tasks, including clearing local roads, flying air support missions, managing air traffic patterns in the affected areas, and providing security on the ground.
“Rivers aren’t expected to crest until later this week, so we’ll be able to conduct more thorough assessments once the waters recede and our staff can go into the areas safely,” CBP Emergency Operations Center Chief Dario Lugo said. “We continue to work with federal, state and local partners in the response to this storm.”
A total of 10 CBP Air and Marine Operations helicopters and another five airplanes went to the region and are providing eyes in the sky for storm damage assessments, as well as making sure air traffic is properly managed in the area. Cameras on the aircraft are providing real-time, streamed video back to Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, emergency operations centers, as well as to CBP command centers in the field and back at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, near the epicenter of the storm’s landfall and now described as an island surrounded by flood waters, CBP is helping clear local roads of downed trees and power lines. In addition,
two Air and Marine agents and a Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) agent were the first on the scene of a two-vehicle auto accident Monday morning in Morrisville, North Carolina. They provided basic life support care for two injured people, removing the victims from the severely damaged vehicle, treating and stabilizing them until local first responders could arrive on the scene.
BORSTAR agents and watercraft, including riverine shallow draft boats and jet skis, have deployed from the southwest and northern borders to staging locations near the affected areas, also ready to help in high-water rescues. The agents are also helping local law enforcement protect against looting or any other criminal activities.
CBP has about 650 non-law enforcement employees who volunteered to work as part of the Surge Capacity Force, helping federal, state and local responses in the region. The force is a group of federal employees, mostly from the Department of Homeland Security, who volunteer to work for FEMA. Born in 2006 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Surge Capacity Force has approximately 3,600 members who augment federal, state and local disaster responders. So far, CBP’s part in the overall Surge Capacity Force has not been tapped to go to the area, and members are awaiting their marching orders.