BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (KSLA) — As cleanup efforts continue in Southwest Louisiana after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, several areas have seen such huge spikes in the mosquito population that swarms have killed livestock.
As a result, FEMA requested additional help. The U.S. Northern Command activated the 910th Airlift Wing to provide support through its aerial spraying mission.
The 910th has worked out of Barksdale for the past several days. Its mission covers more than 1 million square acres of South Louisiana.
“Typically what’s going on in the areas that are affected, they are getting as many as 100 mosquito bites in a minute on some of these counts," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Remmers, a medical entomologist with the 910th.
"After our sprays, we can lower that to less than five in a minute. Historically speaking, after Katrina and Harvey, that’s what happened. And it seems like we are getting good results here.”
Mosquitos can hinder recovery efforts and potentially spread diseases like the West Nile virus, Remmers said. Those are things that people recovering after devastating hurricanes shouldn’t have to worry about, she added.
“When people think of a hurricane or flooding, mosquitos aren’t necessarily the first thing you think about," Remmers said. "So that’s why we come in, as I mentioned, that’s the last thing they need to be thinking about.
"Rescue workers, people trying to rebuild their homes and businesses, take care of their families and the people around them. They don’t want to be eaten alive by mosquitos, right? So by helping them do that, we are helping the overall picture and the overall rebuilding of the area.”
Air Force Northern is part of the broader U.S. Northern Command’s Defense Department support of FEMA. ARNORTH plays an important role in disaster response, but all of its efforts are in support of the lead federal agency working closely with state and local officials.
Col. Dale Snider, the Defense coordinating officer for this region, said the Defense Department will always provide support and answer the call when needed.
“The states are wonderfully responsive to the people, and the people are resilient. But when an asset isn’t available to them for one reason or another, if they run out of it, and they want to ask, DoD will be there to help them," he said. "We want to help the people.”
The 910th maintains the DoD’s only large-area, fixed-wing aerial spray capability. It will remain in Louisiana for the next few days.