Heroes of the Hurricane

The Coast Guard performs many other missions, some of which Hurricane Florence served to highlight.

Heroes of the Hurricane
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Shallow-Water Response Boat Team 3 help pets stranded by floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence near Riegelwood, North Carolina, on September 16, 2018.Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard District 5

As I write this, Hurricane Florence, which ravaged North Carolina, is two weeks gone from the East Coast of the United States. Yet a top story in the news this night is the catastrophic flooding that still threatens people in both Carolinas. Winds may be hellacious and the storm surge may be overwhelming, but Florence reminded us that rainfall can be the deadliest component of a hurricane. The proof is in the lives lost and irreversibly altered by this latest cyclone’s deluge.

Naturally, first responders from other parts of the nation, and indeed the world, descended upon North Carolina even before the storm had wrought its destruction. Such is the makeup of these firemen, paramedics, military personnel and police that they go into harm’s way to help and save others, even at risk to themselves. The U.S. Coast Guard is there in force too.

My intent is not to single out the contribution of the U.S. Coast Guard as better than that of the myriad other rescuers and responders, ranging from linemen to medical personnel. All of these deserve respect and support. But, as boaters, the U.S. Coast Guard is highly visible to us — much more so, I’d venture, than to the ordinary Jane Q public who does not own a boat. A common, but very limited, perception of the Coast Guard is that it engages only in search and rescue, and the protection of our waters with respect to drug interdiction and illegal immigration.

The Coast Guard performs many other important missions, some of which Hurricane Florence served to highlight.

Immediately following the storm, the Coast Guard set out to survey impacted waterways to ensure that navigation could safely resume. This work, which is ongoing, involves the placing and replacing of aids to navigation. That’s buoys and markers in the common tongue. Team Wanchese and Team Fort Macon, along with the cutters, Kennebec and Frank Drew, are on-site conducting these operations, which not only re-establish safety, but also re-establish waterborne commerce.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Diligence provided humanitarian relief to the crew of Station Oak Island as well as to Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Diligence’s small boats transported over 1,000 MRE (meals ready-to-eat) packages and more than 50 cases of water, as well as other relief supplies to the area.

More in the realm of the common image of the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team crews used shallow-water response boats to rescue many residents, and even pets, stranded by floodwaters. Naturally, the Coast Guard coordinated at the highest levels with search-and-rescue assets deployed to the storm-ravaged areas, both on the coast and inland.

These are just highlights. I suggest we think about them the next time the Coasties request to board our boat for a safety inspection. I know I will try to remember that they are the good guys.