Great Lakes Coast Guardsmen return from Red River flood response

GRAFTON, N.D. - Coast Guard members in an airboat from Coast Guard Station Belle Isle, Detroit, patrol floodwaters while conducting wellness checks April 16, 2011. Coast Guard members are working with state and local agencies to conduct wellness checks and perform rescues and other critical functions to ensure the safety of the residents affected by the flooding. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle

Coast Guard Station Belle Isle airboat. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Tara Molle.

CLEVELAND – Ninth Coast Guard District personnel have returned home after performing search and rescue and evacuation assistance missions in the flood-stricken regions of North Dakota and Minnesota’s Red River valley basin.

Coast Guardsmen from Air Stations Traverse City and Detroit, Mich; Stations Marblehead, Ohio, Saginaw River, Mich; Belle Isle, Mich; Sackets Harbor, Mich; St. Clair Shores, Mich; Sectors Sault Ste. Marie, Mich; and Buffalo, N.Y.; Marine Safety Unit Chicago and the Ninth District staff spent more than 21 days in support of the flood response.

“Deploying to areas impacted by natural disasters and assisting affected residents is one of our most important missions,” said Capt. Stephen Torpey, chief of incident management for the Ninth District. “All of the Ninth District personnel deployed to North Dakota in support of this response performed their duties with the utmost professionalism.”

The Air Station Traverse City HH-65 Dolphin Helicopter and seven air crew members, two airboats and eight crewmembers, and 13 resources and maintenance personnel began deploying to the region on April 8. By April 29, as the immediate threat of further flooding subsided, all Ninth District personnel returned home from their deployment.

During their deployment, the Traverse City crew conducted one to two missions per day searching for stranded residents in need of assistance and conducting reconnaissance overflights, verifying information being relayed from responders on the ground.

Ninth District airboat crews spent a total of 25 hours operating on the water during the response. Personnel worked with federal, state and local response agencies to locate, evacuate and transfer flooding victims to safe locations and medical transfer areas. Rescue crews also conducted welfare checks in impacted communities and provided logistical support and access to flood-damaged areas.

“All of our skill sets transferred perfectly over to this response,” said Lt. Nathan Noyes, one the HH-65 Dolphin pilots deployed from Air Station Traverse City. “While working out in North Dakota, we also got to see how resilient the residents are. They way they worked together, it was a true example of neighbor helping neighbor.”

In total, Coast Guard personnel successfully rescued 12 people and three pets in the flooded areas centered around Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D.

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