Volunteer flight crews survey flood damage from sky

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As the rain subsides, the real work of cleaning up after Mother nature begins. It's a process that starts with assessing the widespread devastation. That's why crews with the Civil Air Patrol are taking to the skies to survey the damage.

Volunteer Pilot Chuck Stone has had a bird's eye view of the Ozarks this week.

"The targets are usually bridges that are covered with water, roads that are covered," Stone said.

He's part of a crew with the Civil Air Patrol's Table Rock Lake Squadron whose mission is to take pictures of flooding. It's one of 25 squadrons throughout the state, and one of five in southwest Missouri. All the squadrons are available to help the National Guard or state and local officials if needed.

"[We] fly over, photograph that information, then we pass that up to SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). They analyze those photographs and decide what resources does the governor need to send down here to help us," Stone said.

The pilot flies about 1,000 feet above the ground. Stone says they fly low and slow so passengers can get good video of the devastation.

Stone County Emergency Management Director Tom Martin says the high-quality images help pinpoint damage that might be tough to see from the ground. Martin says the county makes a list of the trouble spots and sends it to the state. It's all part of the process to see if, and how much, flood relief assistance folks will get.

"That information then is totaled for the governor then to turn a request in to the president. If we get a presidential declaration, then that's when the individual will be eligible for some assistance," Martin said.

While it's unclear how long that process will take, volunteers like Stone and rest of the Civil Air Patrol provide vital information during this disaster.

"We are not paid. We are able to do this as a community service to the state and to the nation," Stone said.

If you see flood damage in your area, Martin says you should let your county emergency management agency know so it can be included in the flood damage assessments. Stone County residents can notify the Stone County Assessor's Office by calling (417) 357-6145.

The Civil Air Patrol's Table Rock Lake Squadron is based at Branson Airport near Hollister. Stone says they have a strong relationship with the private airport, which helps them to be able to provide this service.