Offutt flood recovery operations continue
Story by SrA Jacob Skovo-Lane on 04/23/2019
Offutt Air Force Base continues recovery operations following flooding of the base that began March 15, 2019.
The water, which at one point covered one-third of the base, has receded significantly and the Emergency Operations Center was re-designated as the Recovery Operations Center.
Inside the center are primary helping agency representatives tasked with coordinating recovery of the impacted 1.2 million square feet of office space, other structures, equipment and much more. Reestablishing the capabilities hindered by the flood, will take time and dedication from the hardworking members of Team Offutt.
Before the flood, many efforts were taken to relocate assets to prevent damage. Nine aircraft were evacuated and the remaining aircraft were relocated to higher elevation areas of the base. No aircraft were damaged by the flood.
Among other efforts, the 97th Intelligence Squadron’s quick action in relocating critical communication equipment to the upper floors of their building was estimated to have saved more than $1 million.
Approximately 3,200 personnel were displaced from 44 work centers. Regaining access to buildings is an ongoing effort as water reached depths as great as 14 feet at some structures.
Specialists in emergency management, bioenvironmental, safety and fire assess the safety of buildings before salvage efforts take place. To protect the members of Team Offutt, those entering the affected buildings don personal protective equipment and sterilized it upon exit.
“At the end of the day, the safety of our sons and daughters is paramount to us, and our mission still goes on,” said Col. Vance Goodfellow, 55th Wing ROC director.
A survey of the flightline, completed March 25, determined that the water had a minimal impact on the runway. Flight operations were authorized for limited daytime operations for local aircraft and full operations are expected to return when the required support services return completely.
In the interim, several of Offutt’s aircraft accomplish mission requirements from alternate locations.
“Let the nation know, that our flying mission is fully mission capable and continues to provide dominate global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for our national leaders and joint warfighters,” Goodfellow said.
Plans for the replacement of the runway remain scheduled to begin in calendar year 2020.
In preparation for the flood, the connections to the electrical grid in areas expected to be under water were shut down. Turning the power back on in the facilities that were flooded is not as simple. Inspections of the electrical systems in the affected buildings are scheduled to ensure when power does return, the work centers are safe and reliable.
Team Offutt has made major strides toward finding the base’s new normal, in part, because of the immense support received from local, state and federal partners.
“From the very beginning we have been inundated with support by our Air Force leadership team, our elected officials, the local community and our own personnel and their families,” said Col. Michael Manion, 55th Wing commander. “Their support throughout this whole ordeal has only strengthened our resolve to come back even stronger.”