Valley on high alert in wake of attacks

September 11, 2001|By DARREN SIMON and MARCY MISNER, Staff Writers

As terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon shook the nation this morning, federal officials at ports of entry in the Imperial Valley were on high alert.

Meanwhile, the Imperial County airport and other airports throughout the Valley were closed as the Federal Aviation Administration shut down all air traffic in the nation.

"There are no flights in or out," said David Conn, manager of the county airport. "We will not let anyone in the gate."

Conn added, "I understand all airports are supposed to be down. That is the report I got."

Conn said the terrorist attacks that rocked the East Coast, spreading fear throughout the nation, will eat away at people's freedoms.


Imperial Valley Blood Services officials reported today there will be a regularly scheduled blood drive at Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday and Friday.

Some blood collected will go to helping victims of the attacks as soon as the FAA clears flights to deliver blood.

Trish Burich-McNeece, coordinator for local blood services, said this morning she has been inundated with phone calls from donors wanting to give blood to help victims.

El Centro Fire Chief Charles Beard said fire departments throughout the Imperial Valley are on alert. Police departments in the Valley reported they are not on alert but are in a heightened state of awareness.

At Naval Air Facility El Centro this morning, authorities were going through a debriefing on the attacks.

Navy officials said this morning that security had been increased at bases throughout the Southwest and that access to all Navy installations had been restricted.

There were reports this morning that some federal buildings in the Imperial Valley were being closed.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in El Centro closed about 9 a.m., according to a source there.

FBI Supervisory Resident Agent Bob Sellers said the El Centro FBI office had not been asked to close. Still, he said the office is on alert.

"There's a heightened state of alert on the border, the Navy base, us. We're kind of on standby right now. I can't see where we have a significant potential for threats here, but you know that is a little difficult (to predict). There's been no specific information there's a threat in Imperial County," Sellers said.

When asked if FBI agents had received training or preparation on how to deal with attacks of this scale, Sellers said yes.

Sellers said any decision to send local agents to help with the investigation of the attacks would be made in San Diego, but no agents had been called to action this morning.

Another local federal employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said federal employees in San Diego received an email this morning directing them to leave the federal buildings there and congregate in fire drill areas until 10:30 a.m.

Federal employees were to bring cellular phones and could expect more information from officials in Washington, D.C., by 10:30 a.m, the official said.

"The email said this was an additional security measure," the official said, but did not provide information on other security measures taken this morning in San Diego.

There were no reports that similar emails were sent to federal employees in the Imperial Valley.

U.S. Border Patrol officials today declined to comment on any additional security measures they were taking.

The Imperial Irrigation District reported this morning it had increased security around the district's generator facilities.

The IID board opted to adjourn its meeting today and reschedule it for Monday.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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