Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Colclough.
With extreme high water conditions and heavy rains threatening to flood the town of Cairo, Ill., and adding pressure to the entire Mississippi River system, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers triggered the activation of the Bird’s Point-New Madrid Floodway Operations Plan last week for the first time since 1937. Last night, the USACE made the decision to open nearly 11,000 feet of levees along the Ohio River to provide relief to the floodwall protecting tens of thousands living at the intersection of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
For nearly a week, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard Sectors Lower Mississippi River and Ohio Valley and the National Guard have deployed vessels, aircraft and crews to impacted flood regions. With swift dispatch, the Coast Guard, USACE and a collection of state and local agencies have surged to remove citizens from imminent danger.
“With more rain expected, Coast Guard teams are ready to help residents in the impacted communities of Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee,” said Cmdr. Claudia Gelzer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah.
Several Coast Guard units, known as DARTs – disaster area response teams – have been operating in the region with six-member crews assigned to each of three 16-foot john boats. Outfitted with rescue and communications equipment and supplies, the DARTs compliment reconnaissance patrols by truck in flood-prone neighborhoods to ensure the safety of local homeowners.
In addition to the DARTs, Coast Guard Sectors New York and New Orleans forward deployed personnel, including Maritime Safety and Security Teams New York and New Orleans to support flood response operations nearly a week ago. Coast Guard and local agencies have rescued nine people from their homes so far. DARTs and local fire rescue team rescued six in Morehouse, Mo., and a DART rescued three elderly women from their flooded house in Smithland, Ky., following the voluntary evacuation of the town’s 352 residents.
While the threat to the town of Cairo remains high, equally high is the taut watch stood by all, literally, at the water’s edge. The Coast Guard crews and their state and local counterparts are ready and “in the zone” to keep people safe.
For the latest on flood response operations visit the Bird’s Point New Madrid Facebook page.