When Hurricane Katrina made landfall just outside of New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, it marked the beginning of one of the largest search and rescue operations the Coast Guard had ever seen. While the landfall may have marked the end of the storm, it was only just the beginning of a long-term response and recovery effort for the city of New Orleans and the region as a whole.
It was 6:10 a.m., when it came ashore in southeast Louisiana, blowing 125 mph winds and dumping heavy rain. No one could predict just how devastating the strong Category 3 hurricane would be for New Orleans. And no one knew at the time, but the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina would turn out to be one of the largest search and rescue mission in the nation’s history.
I was privileged to meet many of those first responders whose heroic feats were featured in Paratus 14:50, and I saw first-hand the raw emotions still evident from the historic number of lives saved and the unforgettable tragedy of lives lost during Katrina. While our objective was to save everyone by any and all means, 1,883 people perished and Katrina still conjures thoughts of loss and mourning – certainly not an event to celebrate.
This blog is part of a series that reflects upon the tracking, landfall, response and long-term recovery 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Throughout each stage, Coast Guard men and women played an integral part in the immediate rescue and recovery efforts. Follow along this weekend as Coast Guard Compass remembers Katrina.
“The U.S. is an Arctic nation. The Coast Guard has provided presence and access to the Arctic region since the 1860s – the time of Capt. Mike Healy. This ship, which carries his name, continues that proud tradition. This summer we will demonstrate how we continue to provide access to the furthest regions of the globe.”
Coast Guard aviation was born when 3rd Lt. Elmer Stone reported to flight training on April 1, 1916. Now, a full century later, 2016 will represent the 100th year of U.S. Coast Guard aviation.
Those familiar with Coast Guard history know that the Service’s development has been shaped in part by the nation’s response to natural and man-made disasters. Nowhere is that lesson clearer than the history of the Service’s search and rescue, or SAR, mission.
To say that the North Shore of Alaska is a remote place is an understatement. The North Shore borders the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea, two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean. Even in the middle of July, the waters in the area are still icy with large ice flows in many areas. It is not hard to see that conducting search and rescue, one of the Coast Guard’s core missions in the area, presents unusual challenges.
In 1915, the ‘Act to Create the U.S. Coast Guard’ was signed, merging the Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Life Saving Service to form the modern-day Coast Guard. The merging of these two organizations formed a service whose unique capabilities would prove to be invaluable just six month later on the Great Lakes.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Darren Harrity, a 27-year-old native of Jupiter, Florida, individually pulled each fisherman more than 250 yards in 57-degree water from their life raft to shore, where they were met by emergency medical services. Each of the fishermen were the same size or bigger than the 6-foot, 175-pound Harrity.