Coast Guard concludes 2011 Red River flood ops

Coast Guard members in an airboat from Coast Guard Station Belle Isle, Detroit, patrol floodwaters while conducting wellness checks. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

Coast Guard members in an airboat from Station Belle Isle, Mich., patrol floodwaters while conducting wellness checks. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

Written by Lt. Rob McCaskey, chief of incident management, Sector Upper Mississippi River.

After nearly three weeks of operations, the Coast Guard is winding down its response to seasonal floods on the Red River. Record winter snows this year, and extremely high ground water content, left the Red River watershed primed for flooding. A late spring thaw resulted in some river levels rivaling records set in the historic floods of 2009, whereas other areas did not surpass 2009 levels, enforcing the fact that flooding is difficult to accurately predict.

U.S. Coast Guard members and Cass County Sheriff'€s Department members return from airboat patrols near Harwood, N. D. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Seth Johnson.

U.S. Coast Guard and Cass County Sheriff'€s Department members return from airboat patrols near Harwood, N. D. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Seth Johnson.

Following a federal emergency declaration on April 7th, the Coast Guard, led by a coordinating incident management team from Sector Upper Mississippi River, deployed personnel and resources from four Coast Guard districts and nine Coast Guard sectors to assist the state of North Dakota for the third straight year as the river flowed over its normal banks and threatened the homes and businesses of local residents.

During the 21-day response, the Coast Guard flew a total of 65 helicopter hours and operated 25 airboat hours on the water, successfully rescuing 12 people and three pets. These assets also provided critical situational awareness to North Dakota emergency managers by performing aerial and ground surveys.

In addition to operational assets, support personnel manned coordinating offices at the state command center in Bismarck, N.D., and a local operational command center in Fargo, N.D. Sector Upper Mississippi River also provided a coordinating incident management team for the third straight year of Red River flooding, with Capt. Steve Hudson serving as incident commander.

At the height of the response, the Coast Guard operated two airboats from the 9th Coast Guard District and two helicopters with a total of 81 responders participating in the operation.

Coast Guard Auxiliarists Charles Woodward, Janet Heinz, Barry Berg and Robert Heinz stand the watch at a communications center in coordination with state and local authorities during the flood response. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

Coast Guard Auxiliarists Charles Woodward, Janet Heinz, Barry Berg and Robert Heinz stand the watch at a communications center in coordination with state and local authorities during the flood response. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

“The success of this operation can be directly attributed to the professionalism and teamwork of the Coast Guard members as well as the other Federal and state emergency responders who participated,” said Cmdr. Steve Teschendorf, deputy incident commander. “We are pleased that we played a part in lessening the potential impact on the population in North Dakota.”

While a single helicopter and support personnel currently remain in North Dakota, conditions continue to improve and all Coast Guard responders are expected to depart on Friday, pending a significant weather event.

Houses south of Grand Forks, N.D., sit flooded as the Red River rose on April 14. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Houses south of Grand Forks, N.D., sit flooded as the Red River rose on April 14. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

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