Coast Guard Station Fort Macon recovers from Hurricane Florence

Station Fort Macon's sign, despite being torn down during Hurricane Florence, stands repaired Oct. 22nd, 2018, in Morehead City, North Carolina. The Station's crew worked to get operational shortly after Hurricane Florence swept through North Carolina's coastline and is fully operational despite damage from the storm. (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup)

Station Fort Macon’s sign, despite being torn down during Hurricane Florence, stands repaired Oct. 22nd, 2018, in Morehead City, North Carolina.  (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup)

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup

Driving along the North Carolina coast to Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, Oct. 22nd, the leftover destruction from Hurricane Florence was obvious. Construction crews worked on homes and businesses and large piles of wreckage dotted the roadside.

Crewmembers at Station Fort Macon could be seen grabbing their gear and preparing to get underway, undeterred by the damage and challenges left from Hurricane Florence.

From the outside looking in, the station itself didn’t immediately appear damaged, but a walk inside the large brick building told a different story. Whole patches of ceiling tiles were missing, mold growth lined the walls and water damage was visible throughout. For Senior Chief Petty Officer Carter Seigh, officer-in-charge of Station Fort Macon, a damaged station wasn’t the only obstacle awaiting his crew upon their return.

“The toughest challenge was just getting through the roads,” said Seigh. “The debris and destruction made it hard for us to just get back to the base. Once we arrived, there was so much to be cleaned up.”

Without the lodging or facilities offered by the building, the crew had to improvise. They stayed with other shipmates on base and quickly set up areas for gear, training and mission preparation. For some members with families, this process was even harder as they dealt with their own destroyed homes.

“Basically everything in my bedroom was destroyed,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Healy, a coxswain at Station Fort Macon. “The main reason we moved out was the mold that was throughout the home, but there was a lot of water damage as well.”

Despite the damage to their homes and their station, the crew was operational by Saturday, Sept. 15th, following the storm’s passing. After the storm, opening the channel to facilitate vessel traffic was paramount so that resources and relief aid could be shipped in. However, accomplishing this required proper survey of the local aids to navigation, or ATON, water-based visual aids that guide ships through safe water and away from hazards to navigation.

“In our area in particular, storms generate a large amount of current that shift the sands of the channel and make it dangerous for commercial traffic due to newly formed shoaling,” said Seigh.

The station’s crew verified the positions of approximately 150 aids to navigation and discovered roughly 35 discrepancies. A majority of these were missing day boards, leaving naked wooden piles that offered mariners no guidance through the channel. Working with the aids to navigation team at Fort Macon, aids were repaired or set back after being reported by Station Fort Macon and the channel was fully reopened by Tuesday, Sept. 18th.

As the maritime community rebuilds and gets back on their feet, Station Fort Macon’s crew continues their missions, despite their damaged facility.

“Coming back from the storm, the crew did a tremendous job coming together,” said Seigh. “The crew worked to ensure the station was back up and running, their family members were taken care of and that they are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.”

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