As Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the eve of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, local, state and federal responders were at the ready to provide aid and assistance to Gulf Coast communities.
Prior to Isaac’s landfall, personnel and assets were moved into place to prepare for potential disaster response missions. Units in the Gulf region implemented their hurricane plans by moving response boats and aircraft out of Isaac’s path so they were able to respond after the storm had passed.
Keeping the response resources away from the storm’s path proved a life-saving move. Over the past two days, the Coast Guard has rescued 17 people and two pets by helicopter in the greater New Orleans area.
In one of the cases, watchstanders at the Sector New Orleans command center received a report of two people and their dogs inside a flooded house in LaPlace, La. At the same time a report came in of a man aboard a house barge near Lake Catherine that was adrift.
“The husband and wife and their two dogs were in an area where a lot of houses washed away,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jorge Porto, a pilot aboard the Air Station New Orleans helicopter. “They used a flashlight inside the house as a signaling device, which made all the difference in locating them effectively.”
Coast Guard helicopters from New Orleans, Houston and Mobile continue to fly the area searching for signs of distress and giving assistance as needed. Coast Guard cutters are also en route to New Orleans to drop off food and water to those in need.
“We continue to work closely with our federal, state, local and industry partners to ensure that we are effectively responding to the people in need,” said Rear Adm. Roy Nash, commander of the 8th Coast Guard District. “We are all in this together, and working together we will be successful.”
Coast Guard aids to navigation crews are also assessing the ports and waterways affected by Isaac and the re-opening of waterways, and port operations will begin as soon as safely possible. Recovery of the ports is important as six of the top 25 ports by gross tonnage – Mobile, Pascagoula, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, Plaquemines – were closed by Isaac.
Isaac continues to bring strong winds and heavy rain through the Gulf Coast, and residents are urged to heed the warnings of local officials and not venture into unsafe conditions. Isaac is bringing significant amounts of rainfall, so flood safety is key. Those in coastal and inland areas should monitor local TV, radio or NOAA weather radio and be alert to the possibility of the risk of flooding and flash flooding.
Below are a few additional flood safety tips should you or loved ones be in the storm’s path:
• Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Remember – turn around, don’t drown.
• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
• Flood safety terms you should know:
Flood Watch: Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flood Warning: Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if local officials give notice to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Watch: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flash Flood Warning: Rapid rises on streams and rivers are occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.
As the nation continues to assess the impact of the storm on communities along the Gulf Coast, Coast Guard units and partner agencies remain at the ready.
For emergency assistance in the region, please contact local officials or the 8th Coast Guard District command center at 504-589-6225.