TWIN FALLS — The Civil Air Patrol is gearing up to be the Idaho Office of Emergency Management‘s eyes in the sky over the weekend, and during and after Monday’s total solar eclipse.
For such an event, the IOEM looks to federal, state and local agencies for help to make sure the office has a broad picture of what they will be dealing with, said Elizabeth Duncan, IEOM spokeswoman.
CAP will provide airborne and communication support during the eclipse, said Mitzi Breshears, CAP spokeswoman.
Other agencies such as the Idaho State Police, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Idaho Department of Transportation, public health districts and Idaho National Guard are involved, Duncan said.
“We’re trying to put together a common operating picture, like a snapshot of the state,” she said, “Here’s where gas stations are. Here’s where hospitals are.”
Idaho Wing Vice Commander Jim Haldy said CAP pilots will be flying out of Nampa, Mountain Home, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and possibly Burley to monitor and photograph traffic and to keep watch for wildfires.
Being in the air “gives you a perspective you can’t get from the ground,” Haldy said. “You can’t see far sitting behind a tractor-trailer stuck in traffic.”
CAP pilots will monitor activities from light planes such as the Cessna 182 and 206 models.
“While we are flying, we’ll be looking for unusual things,” he said. “We know there are going to be a lot of people and strange traffic situations.”
A search-and-rescue pilot with CAP, Haldy was putting together the all-volunteer manning plan Thursday when contacted by the Times-News. His wife, Capt. Paula Haldy, is commander of Eagle Rock Composite Squadron in Idaho Falls.
Based on what he’s seen in Idaho Falls, “the weekend is going to be really something,” he said.
The air patrol has 218 members — and even more cadets — in the state’s eight squadrons, said Andrea Andrews, CAP spokeswoman.
“Our squadron is involved,” Twin Falls Composite Squadron Commander Lt. Gayland Edwards confirmed Thursday.
The emergency management office is expecting the worst traffic to be Monday afternoon, as campers and eclipse viewers try to return head home after the show in the sky.
Duncan said the Idaho Falls airport has added extra outgoing flights for Monday and Tuesday.
“While we expect the crowds will trickle in leading up to the event,” said Idaho Falls Fire Chief Dave Hanneman in an emergency management office newsletter, “we anticipate large numbers of visitors trying to return home immediately following the eclipse, causing bottlenecks and significant delays on ... major highways.”