Technology-packed planes spray over Denton County

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on August 31, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 1 at 4:04 PM

DENTON -- Four planes took off from Denton Municipal Airport Friday night for an aerial attack on the mosquitoes that cause West Nile virus in Denton County.

A total of 763 human cases have been confirmed in Denton, Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties.

Denton County's map for aerial spraying looked like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Thirty towns or cities opted in, ten opted out, and the lines between them appear difficult to follow. But not for Clarke mosquito experts.

Due to gusty winds, parts of Flower Mound, Lewisville and Southlake had not received the initial treatment by the time the aircraft landed early Saturday morning.

Clarke spokeswoman Laura McGowan said spraying will continue Saturday night at 9 o'clock, with a third round scheduled on Sunday night to ensure that all sectors are sprayed twice for optimal effectiveness.

McGowan said the maps are pre-programmed into state-of-the-art GPS systems. Biologists are on the ground monitoring accuracy, she said, just as they did in Dallas County. McGowan said in Dallas no droplets fell into test zones that weren't supposed to be sprayed.

"The technology we have on board allows for changes in wind speed and direction. Even temperature, and the height at which the plane is flying," McGowan said. "It is automatically calculated and adjusted."

That means if weather changes mid-flight, the flight path is automatically tweaked to ensure droplets land where they are supposed to land.

On Friday, the pilots found there actually wasn't enough wind speed for spraying in some areas. The wind in the north was enough, but unless wind picks up, spraying over the areas to the south may be delayed.

For spraying this precise, precise tools are needed.

"Our pilots are wearing military-grade night vision goggles. They have a light bar directing them where to go," McGowan said. "They are working with top-tier technology."

The droplets being released are one-quarter the diameter of a human hair.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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