By Senior Airman Jacob Skovo, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 05, 2019
The 55th Wing’s Recovery Operations Center staff works 16-hour shifts disseminating pertinent information to the base populous regarding the flooding caused by the Missouri River on March 19, 2019. The Missouri River breached the levee system which widened the river’s footprint - covering one third of the base. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)
Team Offutt members clear debris from one of the docks at the Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility on March 21, 2019. Team Offutt personnel have regained access to buildings and facilities to begin assessing damage and recovering items which were underwater less than a week ago (Photo by Charles Haymond).
A Civil Engineer Maintenance Inspection Repair Team based out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, inspect a three megawatt generator that was partially submerged in floodwaters that encroached through half of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, March 29. 2019. The CEMIRT team is part of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center which is tasked with responding to emergency situations to ensure the operability of military installations around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
Staff Sgt. Logan Burnett, an electrician with the Civil Engineer Center's Civil Engineer Maintenance Inspection Repair Team, inspects a generator at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, March 29, 2019. Offutt experienced record flooding due to a variable of conditions prompting teams from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center - a unit responsible for providing rapid response to disaster areas around the globe, to help aid in the Offutt, flood recovery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
Dave Cormack, 55th Civil Engineer Squadron power support systems mechanic, inspects an alternator for flood damage on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, March 28, 2019. The generators were partially submerged in flood waters following an inordinate amount of snowfall, in the midwest, coupled with several other factors resulted in record-flooding of the adjacent Missouri River. (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
Recovery Operations Center members, comprised of subject-matter experts from across Team Offutt, work to coordinate all aspects of the recovery effort March 19. Today, more than 20 buildings have been cleared for initial disaster recovery efforts, through a safe and methodical approach, with more being opened by the hour (Photo by Josh Plueger).
Master Sgt. Luke Nelson, 55th Force Support Squadron superintendent, relays pertinent flood information for the 55th FSS from the Recovery Operations Center March 19, 2019. The 55th Wing experienced record flooding, from the neighboring Missouri River, due to an unseasonable amount of snowfall and rapid melting. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)
The 55th Wing’s Recovery Operations Center staff work 16-hour shifts monitoring the base’s flood conditions March 19, 2019. The Missouri River breached the levee system which widened the river’s footprint which extended well into the base - flooding 44 facilities to include the 55th Wing headquarters building. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visit Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, March 27, 2019, to survey damage caused by recent flooding and to meet with Team Offutt Airmen. A record-setting snowfall over the winter, in addition to a large drop in air pressure, caused widespread flooding of nearby rivers and waterways. (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
Members of the maintenance utilize work station in the Warhawk Community Center March 22, 2019, on Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The 55t Communications Group stood up a cyber café following the displacement of more than 3,000 base members from their work centers following flooding. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake)
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson talks to members of the 55th Wing March 22, 2019, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. A week earlier the base began taking on flood waters that eventually covered one-third of the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake)
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson tours the 55th Wing’s mobile Emergency Operations Center March 22, 2019, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. A week earlier the base began taking on flood waters that eventually covered one-third of the installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake)
Environmental restoration employees deploy a containment boom from a boat March 18, 2019, on Offutt Air Force Base. One-third of the installation was flooded and the boom was a precautionary measure for possible fuel leaks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
Chaplain (Maj.) Kevin Humphrey, 55th Wing chaplain, fills sandbags March 15, 2019 at Offutt Air Force Base Nebraska during preparations for anticipated flooding of the base. An increase in water levels of surrounding rivers and waterways caused by record-setting snowfall over the winter in addition to a large drop in air pressure caused widespread flooding across the state of Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)
An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base and the surrounding areas affected by flood waters March 17, 2019. An increase in water levels of surrounding rivers and waterways caused by record-setting snowfall over the winter in addition to a large drop in air pressure caused widespread flooding across the state of Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)
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.”