Federal Hurricane Relief operations staged at Westover - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Federal Hurricane Relief operations staged at Westover

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The morning before Superstorm Sandy was due to ravage the East Coast, maintenance crews were hustling to evacuate all but four of Westover's 16 C-5s at MacDill Air Force Base.

By Oct. 30, 75 trailers filled with emergency supplies stood along Taxiway R, ready to be delivered anywhere in New England.

Drivers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers brought trailers loaded with bottled water, tarps, meals, fuel, generators, and other emergency supplies to hurricane-stricken sites across New England and into New York City.

Trucks continued to rumble into and out of the base through early November as FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers sent relief supplies and generators to disaster sites across New England.

In response to President Obama's call for the government to "lean forward" to support East Coast relief efforts, a Westover C-5B flew to March Air Reserve Base, CA, picked up 76 electrical workers and two utility trucks, and dropped them off at Stewart Air National Guard Base, NY, near New York City, hours later.

Aircraft and crews from 12 total force bases across the nation were mobilized to pick up 632 short tons of equipment supporting relief efforts, including 69 large utility vehicles, according to an Air Force news release.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall Oct. 29, obliterating the New Jersey shore and leaving much of Manhattan underwater with a 13-foot storm surge. The massive Category I hurricane crept north-northeast at 14 mph, according to the National Weather Service, killing at least 170 people in the Caribbean, Bahamas, United States and Canada. The storm left 8.5 million without power and caused more than $20 billion in damage, according to multiple reports.

Sandy became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, with wind spans of 1,100 miles, the Washington Post reported.

The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical cyclone by the time it reached Massachusetts on Oct. 29. Base meteorologists said the maximum wind gusts here were 51 mph. The rainfall that day was one-eighth of an inch. Last year's rainfall during Tropical Storm Irene of 3.2 inches set a new one-day record, more than tripling the previous record of .92 inches set in 1970.

On Oct. 30, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) visited Westover to assess federal recovery operations.

"It is a reminder for people who live here how important Westover is as a staging area," Neal told reporters after his visit.

Westover serves as a FEMA incident support base for emergencies such as this. In September 2010, in preparation for Hurricane Earl, the base debuted as a staging point for FEMA Region I, which encompasses all of New England, said Bob Perreault, chief of emergency management at Westover.

Last year, FEMA teams and trucks were at Westover for nearly two months, staging recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

"Airmen offer unique capabilities to the federal effort, including airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation support," said Maj. Michael Meredith, an Air Force spokesman at Scott AFB, IL. "Those capabilities delivered hope to those in need overseas after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and last year's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan as well as here at home in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav."

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