Blackhawk helicopters used for Susquehanna River rescue training

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A combination of boats and helicopters took to the Susquehanna River on Wednesday to take part in Operation Hurricane.

It was part of a drill sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (HART). Two Blackhawk helicopters,  a UH 47, and several boats came together in a joint effort between the Military, civilians, and HART to practice river rescues from the Susquehanna.

"They're training in swift water, training in moving environments, training for any type of incident that happens especially when you're dealing with flooding," Scott Grahn , senior strike team leader of HART said.

The teams practiced several different scenarios. In one, boats took off from the Ft. Hunter boat launch as two black hawk helicopters circled overhead. Volunteers played as victims who were hoisted off the rocks, lifted out of the water and then taken to safety.

This training will help prepare them for hurricanes, widespread flooding and other natural disasters that Pennsylvania may face.  "We've had multiple storms and tropical storms that came up through Harrisburg and we have had a lot of rain lately," Major Michael Girvin of the Pa. Air National Guard said.  "It's a good exercise to prepare for anything that may occur."

Grahn said the second leading weather-related death is flooding. "We have to know how to prepare for it," Grahn said. "Especially when the locals and the first responders may not be able to get to those folks, they have to have a way out."

"Our helicopter crews are trained for flying the mission, and operating the hoist that you see and doing aerial observation," Girvin said. "So they understand that by working together and communicate on how to do that safely and successfully."

"The interaction between the National Guard, and PEMA and the local assets makes this happen," George Drees, chief of the Susquehanna Township Fire Rescue said. "This team training here today can go anywhere in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."