TLH participates in Patriot Sands Exercises, practicing for natural disasters

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - For the third year in a row, the Tallahassee International Airport is preparing for natural disasters and conducting training exercises with state and federal partners at the end of February.

This comes as the World Meteorological Organization decided on Wednesday that hurricane season will start June 1 as usual, despite conversations about moving the date to May 15. Another change to the hurricane season is no more Greek alphabet.

The Patriot Sands exercise is a five day event at the end of February with the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Reserve practicing to respond to a natural disaster.

TLH was one of three locations around the state, with the other two in Jacksonville and Tampa.

The exercise uses large military scale aircraft, practicing loading personnel and equipment.

COVID-19 now is a part of that response.

“Face coverings and social distancing and the hygiene and all those things; that was part of it. It was great to work with our federal partners to see how we would operate, and we were able to prove that we could successfully operate, carry out the mission, and still be able to practice and help provide that support if needed,” said Deputy Director of Aviation at TLH, Jim Durwin.

Durin was asked about the real-life scenarios the airport has dealt with.

He said that the closest they’ve come recently to this type of response was after Hurricane Michael when they established a logistical staging area at TLH. The “tent city” for first responders was there for almost two months after that natural disaster.

TLH also had an LSA during Hurricane Sally, on a much smaller scale, in 2020.

Durwin said the training also underscores how important the airport is for the entire region, helping get state and federal resources to the east and to the west.

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