Port Angeles mayor: Army copters terrorized city

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PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd doesn't want to be surprised again by low-flying helicopters circling her city late at night.

She wants to know why local officials weren't notified of an Army helicopter training exercise Thursday night that "terrorized my city."

Kidd expected to meet Monday with Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, The Peninsula Daily News reported. "I'm demanding answers," she said.

The mayor also is inviting Hodges to address the public at a Tuesday night city council meeting at City Hall.

Dozens of alarmed residents called emergency dispatchers and military copters were spotlighting the town. The sound woke up children and startled livestock.

"I was awakened with alarm to a sound like a helicopter that sounded like it was over my house," Kidd said.

There was no immediate explanation.

The Clallam County sheriff's office learned the next day that Army copters flew over the city as part of a training exercise at the Coast Guard base at Ediz Hook.

It was an oversight that officials in Port Angeles were not notified before the training missions, Hodges said Saturday.

The MH-60 Blackhawks and tandem rotor heavy-lift CH-47 Chinooks were flown by pilots with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at JBLM. The copters transport special forces units.

The training exercise lasted from about 11:30 p.m. Thursday to 2 a.m. Friday, Hodges said. People could have perceived landing lights as shining onto homes, Hodges said.

"They weren't hovering over the city or hovering over homes," he said.

The Department of Defense had announced through the Federal Aviation Administration's Notices to Airmen that there would be heavy military activity in the vicinity of Port Angeles., said Cmdr. Craig O'Brien, operations officer at the Coast Guard base.

Such notices are not sent out to the media or local law enforcement, but the system is accessible to the general public, he said.