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.
CAP, a nonprofit civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, carries out emergency-service missions, including searches and security. Its Idaho wing will provide airborne and communication support during the eclipse, said Mitzi Breshears, CAP spokeswoman.
Idaho Wing Vice Commander Jim Haldy said CAP pilots will fly 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.”
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CAP pilots will monitor activities from light planes such as 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.”
The air patrol has 218 members — and even more teenage cadets — in the state’s eight squadrons, said Andrea Andrews, CAP spokeswoman.
The state Office of Emergency Management 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.
The office turns to other federal, state and local agencies for help with events like this to make sure it has a broad understanding of what they will be dealing with, spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan said.
Based on what he’s already seen in Idaho Falls, Haldy predicted: “The weekend is going to be really something.”
Duncan said the Idaho Falls airport has added extra outgoing flights Monday and Tuesday to accommodate visitors who are coming to the city to watch the eclipse, because it is in the path of totality. Authorities expect bottlenecks and traffic delays on major highways afterward.