Your Coast Guard in 2011 – Heartland

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The U.S. Coast Guard lived up to its motto of being “Always Ready” in 2011 – from interdicting the first drug sub in Caribbean waters to providing humanitarian relief to a drought-stricken island nation, Coast Guard crews had a remarkable year. As 2011 winds down, Compass brings to you “Your Coast Guard in 2011” – a series highlighting the top stories, missions and cases from around the nation. Visit us every day this week to read about each district and the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Today you’ll hear from the 8th Coast Guard District and how they responded in full force to protect people, property and the economy during the 2011 Midwest floods.

A member of MSD Cincinnati'™s Disaster Area Response Team tosses a sandbag to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Cliffe as the two men attempt to help save a house from rising floodwaters in Brookport, Ill. Their DART has been working with local and federal agencies to assist in flood response in communities throughout Southern Illinois. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac Pacheco.
A member of MSD Cincinnati’™s Disaster Area Response Team tosses a sandbag to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Cliffe as the two men attempt to help save a house from rising floodwaters in Brookport, Ill. Their DART has been working with local and federal agencies to assist in flood response in communities throughout Southern Illinois. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac Pacheco.

Written by District Eight External Affairs Staff.

When disaster looms, the Coast Guard readies itself to respond. The 2011 Midwest floods was a natural disaster requiring the assistance of Coast Guardsmen from various units throughout the 8th Coast Guard District.

Coast Guard reservists from Marine Security Detachment Cincinnati ferry an emergency response team in one of their shallow water rescue boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac D. Pacheco.
Coast Guard reservists from Marine Security Detachment Cincinnati ferry an emergency response team in one of their shallow water rescue boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac D. Pacheco.

Beginning in late April, the heavy snowfalls blanketing the Northwest began to melt resulting in historic levels in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers causing widespread flooding from Fargo, S.D., to New Orleans. Coast Guard Disaster Area Response Teams were among the first responders to any residential areas impacted by the flood waters.

The historic flooding required the capabilities of many different types of Coast Guard units including: Coast Guard DARTs that responded to areas hardest hit by the rising water; aids to navigation teams that repaired damaged navigational aids; and Vessel Transit Systems that kept commerce, the life blood of America, flowing.

“We have been conducting daily area familiarization tours and water surveys,” said Chief Petty Officer James Gribble in an interview at the time, a reservist who drilled out of Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River as part of the response.

Gribble stressed it was extremely important for Coast Guard members to actively assess the water levels and also interact with the local community so they knew the Coast Guard was there to help.

To support transportation during the floods, Coast Guard men and women were responsible for maintaining aids to navigation throughout the river systems. Aids, including buoys and day boards located along the 10,300 miles of navigable waterways, helped boat pilots and vessel captains safely navigate the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri rivers.

Units, like  Coast Guard Cutter Chippewa, a 75-foot river buoy tender, played an integral role in the recovery and restoration of aids to navigation destroyed or misplaced by the historic Midwest floods.

Coast Guard Reservist Lt. j.g. Ash Thorne wades out into a water-covered driveway that his disaster area response team had crossed to rescue a couple trapped in their home by floodwater. Thorne is supervising two teams of Coast Guard Reservists from Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River as they assist in flood response in rain-soaked communities throughout Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac Pacheco.
Coast Guard Reservist Lt. j.g. Ash Thorne wades out into a water-covered driveway that his disaster area response team had crossed to rescue a couple trapped in their home by floodwater. Thorne is supervising two teams of Coast Guard Reservists from Coast Guard Sector Upper Mississippi River as they assist in flood response in rain-soaked communities throughout Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac Pacheco.

As people were rescued and navigational aids were restored, Coast Guard VTS personnel mounted an effort to keep commerce flowing safely and steadily through the high water areas. VTS acted as a communications hub providing critical information to mariners, port authorities and facility operators.

“This information helped prevent vessel collisions and marine casualties, as well as the potential environmental damage associated with these incidents,” said Cmdr. Tim Wendt, chief, Waterways Management Branch at the district. “VTS information also enabled waterway managers and mariners to better understand the processes at work in a port’s complex waterway system as well as to improve these systems and keep America’s maritime commerce moving.”

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