Coast Guard responds to 37 distress calls as thunderstorms rage through Chesapeake Bay

BALTIMORE – Coast Guard responds to 37 distress calls resulting in more than 77 people assisted or rescued after a severe thunderstorm developed in the Chesapeake Bay Sunday afternoon.

At 3:05 p.m., the National Weather Service Radar indicated a line of severe thunderstorms capable of producing destructive winds in excess of 70 mph. A marine broadcast was issued to notify mariners to seek shelter immediately.

At approximately 3:25 p.m., Sector Baltimore watchstanders received the first call notifying them that vessels were being affected by the storm. Within minutes, multiple calls came in to the command center.

Damaging wind gusts, frequent cloud to ground lightning strikes and unstable sea conditions began to create a dangerous situation for mariners.

Within a two hour period, eight Coast Guard response boatcrews from six different small boat stations, including Station Stillpond, Station Oxford, Station St. Inigoes, Station Curtis Bay, Station Annapolis and Station Washington, D.C., began responding to the distress calls. Distress cases spanned from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to as far south as Colonial Beach, Md., to include the Potomac River.

Some of the rescue efforts included:

Coast Guard Station Oxford boatcrews rescued two people from a capsized kayak near Cambridge Creek, Md.

Station Annapolis boatcrews rescued three personal water craft operators who were located clinging to a buoy near Herring Bay, Md.

Station St. Inigoes rescued five people located in the water after their raft capsized near St. George’s Island. With the use of a translator, St. Inigoes crewmembers were also able to rescue a Spanish speaking family aboard a 30-foot pleasure craft that was disabled near Colonial Beach.

“I have been working this job for more than five years, and I have never seen this happen before,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Stanley, a search and rescue coordinator at Sector Baltimore.

“Storms can turn a normal day out on the boat to a battle of life and death, in one case we literally had victims clinging to a buoy for life,” said Chief Petty Officer Keith Moore an operations specialist at Sector Baltimore. “This is what we train for; this is why we are here. However, in an emergency as large as this was, a number of unprepared mariners can take a toll and create a very difficult situation for all responders. We could not have done this alone; we are incredibly thankful to our state and local agencies for helping us carry the burden of such a difficult mission.”

The Coast Guard urges mariners to pay close attention to the weather reports and weather advisories prior to and while boating. Mariners should take appropriate action when a storm is nearing by leaving affected areas, returning to marinas and safe haven as soon as possible.

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