FEMA Stages New England Operations for Sandy at Westover Air Force Base

Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts has become the principal New England staging area for federal emergency management officials as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the east coast.

The base has experience playing a central role in emergency response – Westover was FEMA’s New England staging area for Tropical Storm Irene last year, and for Hurricane Earl in 2010. Lieutenant Colonel James Bishop says FEMA brought 77 trailer trucks to the base over the weekend.

“The trailers are full of meals, cots, tarps, all sorts of emergency supplies.”

Bishop says the supplies can be directed wherever they’re needed in New England. Westover is also home to sixteen C-5 aircraft, one of the largest military transport planes. Bishop says eight planes are currently away from the base, while four were evacuated over the weekend to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. With high winds accompanying the storm, Bishop says base personnel have had to weigh down the remaining four aircraft.

“Some of them we’re going to drive a fire truck on just to keep it down, because the danger is of them blowing around, and blowing into each other. They’re made for lift, and so when winds go over them, even though this is the biggest airplane in the military, they’ll slide around.”

Bishop says each C-5 plane costs $179 million. He says keeping the planes safe is good stewardship of taxpayer money.