DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Well after the sun set on Thursday night, Dallas County launched two planes filled with mosquito-killing chemicals, in an air assault on the West Nile virus. Aerial spraying has not been done in Dallas County since 1966. But the county has declared a public health emergency over West Nile with 10 recorded deaths this season, more than all other North Texas counties combined.
More than 500 people have contracted the West Nile virus throughout all of North Texas. Nearly half of those cases have been in Dallas County, and officials opted for aerial spraying in hopes of controlling the mosquito population and preventing any more cases of West Nile.
The two planes, loaded with pesticides, took off just after 9:30 a.m. from Dallas Executive Airport in south Oak Cliff. They had to wait for the sun to go down in order to minimize light exposure. "It breaks down with ULV rays," explained Mike Stuart with Dynamic Aviation. "We try to load it right before the missions and as the sun goes down." The planes flew at an altitude of 300 feet for about four hours, and covered about 50,000 acres.
"It felt good to have those planes in the air last night," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told CBS 11 News early Friday morning. "We're safer today because of it."
The planes sprayed areas north of Interstate-30 including various parts of Dallas, University Park, Highland Park, Richardson, Garland and parts of Mesquite. Another round of aerial spraying is scheduled for Friday night. Some parts of Dallas County are considered exclusion zones and do not get sprayed, including former President George W. Bush's home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood.
Jenkins said that approximately 60 people have opposed the aerial spraying for every one that appreciates the effort. "This is not an issue that I can take a poll on," he told CBS 11 News. "I've got to follow the science. I pulled together the top scientists in the country, listened to all sides including the side of elected officials who were opposed, prayed about it, went with my gut, went with the science. We've got to move to protect the people."
Rain did slightly interrupt Thursday night's original spray plan, and more spotty showers are in the weather forecast for the next several days, so the plans could change again, several times, before targeted areas have been covered. "We were able to get half of our goal for last night," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told KRLD-AM on Friday morning. "The rest has got to be done tonight." Aerial spraying will start up again no earlier than 8:30 p.m. on Friday night. Four planes will now be used for the spraying.
PLAY: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on 1080 KRLD
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