America’s Lifesavers vs. Northwest Floods

The following is reposted from the Department of Homeland Security Leadership Journal

Last week, a life-threatening storm, the Pineapple Express, swept through the Pacific Northwest. Within hours, hurricane-force winds with gusts close to 130 mph and torrential rains caused record-breaking floods throughout the region. Thousands of residents were stranded when major highways quickly became rivers, cutting off those who needed help. Communities throughout Oregon and Washington flooded like never before, taking the lives of ten people. The Coast Guard closed all river bars from Tillamook, Oregon, north to the Straits of Juan De Fuca, and pre-positioned additional people and equipment in advance of the storm.

Coast Guard rescuers saved more than three hundred people and six pets, in our biggest mass rescue operation since Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast more than two years ago. Working hand-in-hand with our local, state and Federal emergency response partners, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, air and boat crews rescued and evacuated storm victims from some of the most remote and inaccessible locations. In order to assist such a large number of people in distress, our local commanders brought in reinforcement from as far away as San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. These Coast Guard men and women demonstrated selflessness and devotion to duty, concentrating on rescuing others despite being without power and communications at home and work, and having little contact with their own families. One Coast Guard watchstander stood 26 hours of continuous watch, coordinating landing zone logistics and air operations in Chehalis, Washington.

During one rescue operation, a Coast Guard aircrew helped evacuate a mother and her premature newborn baby. The infant was suffering from respiratory distress and needed transport to another hospital’s neonatal unit. The aircrew from Air Station Port Angeles responded by attending to the mother while another crewmember provided manual breathing for the newborn. The baby survived by breathing through a tube during the one hour in flight, while both mother and child were being safely transported to the hospital.

We also reached out to more than 500 volunteers through our regional Citizen’s Action Network to assist us in locating people in distress, identifying pollution incidents, and responding to discrepancies in aids to navigation as a result of the record flooding.

Coast Guard men and women, with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, are deployed all across the country and stand ready to respond to all threats and hazards as we carry out our duties as America’s lifesavers and guardians of the seas.

Admiral Thad W. Allen
Commandant U.S. Coast Guard

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