Senior flies sky high to capture flood footage

Christine Lee, Life Editor

After Wilkes was spared from getting flooded, senior mechanical engineering major Devin Albrecht, who is a licensed private pilot, decided he wanted to fly his plane  and take photos and video footage to see the damage caused by flood in nearby towns. What he didn’t know was how important his pictures and video footage would be for the Wyoming Valley.

On Friday morning, September 9, Albrecht decided to fly his plane with his father, who works for WBRE as a photographer. He says he thought it would be something that would be fun to do with his dad, a service that he could do, and out of curiosity to see what the flood areas were like from the air.

Before he took off, Albrecht attached two go-pro high-definition action cameras to the outside of the airplane. Designed to take both still pictures and video, he adjusted the cameras to high-definition video mode before taking off.

Going along for the ride was Albrecht’s uncle, Don Carey, who is a photographer for The Times-Leader. Carey was covering the flood for the paper and needed to get photos. Going on the plane with his nephew proved to be rewarding for him in getting photos for The Times-Leader.

“The front page of the paper the next morning (had) a shot of Pittston, it was a giant full-screen picture that was taken from my plane,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht flew out of the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Airport during regular weather and flew at 500-1,000 ft above the ground. He filmed and had his uncle take pictures as they went. He took off when the river reached its highest point of cresting, and saw was a high degree of flooding in many towns.

“A good portion of West Pittston was completely underwater up to the roofs of houses, and that’s where a lot of the pretty impressive footage came from,” Albrecht said. “(All) bridges were underwater, we saw everything from vehicles floating to houses floating, we saw a number of things floating down the river, (including) an M1A1 tank (from the National Guard reserve).”

The most impressive flooding that Albrecht observed was in Bloomsburg. Albrecht said the flooding there was “the craziest thing” he saw during the flight. He said at least two to three miles of the city were underwater, including all of the fairgrounds — but the most impressive sight came when he saw the flooding at the Bloomsburg Airport.

“I’m familiar with the Bloomsburg airport being a pilot, and in the past they would pull the airplanes up to a little high section of the airport that’s off the river that never flooded.” Albrecht said. “That area did flood this time and everything at the Bloomsburg Airport was underwater; there were planes floating on the field and they lost everything but about four airplanes.”

Albrecht says he didn’t realize his filming had such a major impact until he learned that there was never any aerial videos of the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flooding. It got to him even more when he realized that he had the only video of the river cresting from the air in the Valley, which was not his original intention.

“I was going to go up and help my dad get some neat video for his TV station, and I was just curious and I was going to go up to check it out myself,” Albrecht said.

He said that considering the devastation to West Pittson, Shickshinny and Bloomsburg, he is glad the levee system held up and that Wilkes-Barre stayed dry.