The Coast Guard has a proud tradition of preserving life in even the most adverse conditions and stood ready to continue that tradition in the wake of Sandy.
Previous to Sandy’s landfall, the Coast Guard pre-positioned resources to better ensure the service’s ability to support search and rescue operations immediately following the storm. This careful planning and preparation paid off, as the Coast Guard’s help was needed before Sandy even made landfall when the HMS Bounty began sinking in the Atlantic Ocean with 16 souls aboard.
While the dramatic rescue aboard Bounty has captured the nation’s attention, Coast Guard helicopter crews were also busy responding to multiple requests to rescue people who were trapped in their homes in the wake of the storm. Coast Guard aircrews were sent from both air stations Atlantic City and Cape Cod to provide search and rescue response.
October 30, in just one of these recues, three people – trapped in their home from the extreme high tides – were saved by a MH-65T Dolphin aircrew. As the three people were taken to area hospitals in the safety of a Coast Guard helicopter, another crew assisted New York Police marine units with nine people in distress.
Despite the hard work of emergency responders, people are still in need. Airboats, traditionally used for ice rescues in the Great Lakes region, were dispatched from the 9th Coast Guard District to support this need. These unique boats can operate in shallow water and are able to help out in flooded communities and more than a dozen Coast Guardsmen from stations in Ohio and Michigan deployed to the East Coast to support Sandy response operations.
“We are providing crewmembers and assets that are normally used for ice rescue operations and are now going to be used in a completely different environment,” said Capt. Jeff Ogden, commander of Sector Detroit. “There are millions of people affected by this storm, and we are ready to assist them in any way we can.”
The response is bigger than any one state or any one agency, and the Coast Guard is also coordinating with partners to assess damage in ports and waterways. Maritime transportation system recovery units are in place to coordinate the reopening and survey of local waterways and facilities. Coast Guard crews in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers, local harbor pilots and state and local authorities are working to inspect shore-side facilities for damage.
At sea, buoy positions will be checked to ensure vessels can navigate shipping channels safely. Crews are also in the process of identifying new hazards or areas where shoaling has occurred due to moving sand disturbed by Sandy. In addition to debris and obstructions in the water, several boats are adrift along the entire Eastern Seaboard.
“We are continuing to work closely with our partner agencies to assess damage to our ports and waterways,” said Capt. Joseph Vojvodich, commander of Sector Long Island Sound. “Boaters are reminded to stay off the water until the waterways are reopened. If you have a recreational boat or watercraft that has come free from its mooring, please report it to the Coast Guard immediately. This can save valuable search and rescue resources from unnecessarily looking for a missing person.”
The remnants of Hurricane Sandy continue to pose a danger and activities on the water should be avoided for the next few days. The public is advised to stay clear of beaches as currents remain a danger. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents in the wake of storms. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.
The storm is still powerful as it inches across Pennsylvania. Those still in the storm’s path should stay informed and be prepared. As the nation continues to assess the impact of the storm on communities along the Atlantic seaboard, Coast Guard units will respond and remain at the ready.