Pictured earlier this summer in a training exercise, U.S. Coast Guard members are traveling to assist with rescue operations from Hurricane Florence.

Pictured earlier this summer in a training exercise, U.S. Coast Guard members are traveling to assist with rescue operations from Hurricane Florence.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Local Coast Guard members travel to assist with Hurricane Florence rescues

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published September 13, 2018 | Updated September 21, 2018 3:02pm

The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Detroit sent help to the eastern seaboard to help with search and rescue operations in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which made landfall Sept. 14.

 

“We’ve been poised to help in any way that we can,” said Lt. Molly Smith, public affairs representative for USCG Air Station Detroit.

 

The station sent two search and rescue crews — each consisting of a pilot, co-pilot, hoist operator and a trained EMT rescue swimmer — as well as one out of the station’s five helicopters. The crews left the Detroit area around 4 p.m. Sept. 12.

 

“We receive standardized training that allows us to fold into any greater Coast Guard response,” Smith said the day after the crews left. “They’ll be helping out in any way that they can.”

 

The crews were sent to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, which is the closest air station to Wilmington and Jacksonville, North Carolina, which has borne the brunt of the hurricane force wind, said Petty Officer Charlotte Fritts in Elizabeth City.

 

She said numerous air crews from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Clearwater, Florida, have come to provide assistance to the Elizabeth City crews, helping with search and rescue operations.

 

“Mostly what we’ll do is patrol the areas that have been affected and are still flooding,” Fritts said. “If the emergency operation centers in those areas get a call from someone (and no emergency personnel are available) ... we’ll fly out and perform those rescues.

 

“They are just generally patrolling the area to see if they spot individuals in distress.”

 

According to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard, air and surface crews rescued 434 people and 234 pets since Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14. More than 3,000 Coast Guard members deployed to North Carolina are working with state and local partners to respond to those in need of help.

 

Smith said local Coast Guard units maintain their local responsibilities during large scale incidents such as hurricanes, while also sending aid to the affected area.

 

“As long as there’s a need, we have plenty of people here to maintain our local area of responsibility,” Smith said. “We’re always ready to send a relevant response to the area (where it is) needed.”