Air Force might wage aerial war on Grand Forks mosquitoes next week

By SAM EASTER | Grand Forks Herald | Published: August 13, 2016

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Tribune News Service) — If you're keeping an eye on the sky, next week in Grand Forks might look—and sound—a little out of the ordinary.

Todd Hanson, Grand Forks Mosquito Control manager, said the U.S. Air Force is expected to provide aerial support in the city's ongoing battle against mosquitoes, offering one flight over Grand Forks and spraying for mosquitoes sometime between 8:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Tuesday or Wednesday evening—depending on the weather.

"You're going to see a C-130 flying at about 300 feet and spraying mosquito spray over the city," Hanson said. "If you're sleeping, and it goes right over your house, you could very well wake up; it'll be very quick, though. It'll be flying 200 knots."

Hanson said the spraying service is temporarily available to the city while the Ohio-based Air Force squadron offering the service visits Grand Forks Air Force Base to spray there. The same kind of service was used over Grand Forks most recently in 2009, Hanson said, and is just as important as ever this year, which has been rainier than many others in the past—a strong factor spurring mosquito breeding—and has seen West Nile Virus in the Grand Forks area to boot.

According to the National Weather Service, July's 5.3 inches of rain made it the seventh-wettest on record for the city, though still far short of a 9.08-inch July in 1995.

Total mosquitoes counted in traps around the county appear to have spiked recently, according to city records, rising from one to six in early July to anywhere from 16 to 60 this month, while a corresponding time period last year shows a brief spike of as many as 64 in late July. Citywide ground spraying services have been active 12 times so far this year, compared with eight at this point in 2015.

Hanson said the flight isn't a sure thing—weather could ground the plane, and he pointed out that data from ground traps heading into next week still need to be reviewed. If it does happen, he said, costs will come to about $8,000 for chemicals.

"It's sometimes a little easier to get into those hard-to-reach places. ... This just gives them another way to do what we're already doing," Grand Forks city spokesman Peter Steele said of Air Force spraying, suggesting that the aerial spray more easily reaches places near the English Coulee and other parts of town that might be more cumbersome to spray. "If they can do it with a plane, that's pretty slick."

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