Pilots, swimmers, flight surgeons and technicians stand the watch at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod as Hurricane Irene collides with the Northeastern United States. Rescue teams hover by the radios through the storm, an inadvertent symbol of the service's ideals, slightly modernized by the presence of electronics and computer screens displaying real-time weather data.
'In severe winds, the best thing is for people to stay in safe haven. One of my biggest concerns is putting my crew in harm's way, so we really urge folks to heed the warnings of their local authorities,' said Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Brown, an aircraft commander at the air station.
The storm continues to exhaust itself against the coast, traveling north with wind speeds gusting at 47-knots by 10:00 A.M., Aug. 28, 2011. The lights flicker while gusts whip the surrounding trees and slam the walls of the buildings.
'At this point one of the biggest things is going to be post storm assessments of the ports so that things can get back to normal,' said Capt. David Throop, Commander of Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.
Following the storm, crews at Air Station Cape Cod stand assess vital shipping ports and waterways for potential damage and rapidly coordinate with other federal, state and local search and rescue personnel.
Crews are capable of launching in an emergency in such conditions, with double the standard personnel ready to respond for the duration of the storm. Generators will power the unit's facilities, communications and navigation equipment in the event of power outage and two massive hangars protect waiting air assets from unnecessary exposure to the elements.
The air station's area of responsibility spans northern New Jersey to the Canadian Border with coastal cities including New York and Boston. It is the Atlantic Coast's only Coast Guard Aviation facility north of Atlantic City.
Centrally located at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, the unit maintains the ability to launch a helicopter or jet within 30 minutes of a call, 365 days-a-year, 24 hours-a-day, and in difficult weather conditions.
Coast Guard aviation for search and rescue began in the early nineteen hundreds.
As well as its more famed role as rescuer of yachts and other vessels in trouble in the ocean, it is now used for many missions including homeland security, protection of living marine resources, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, aids to navigation, environmental protection and other law enforcement.
As media report on the impact of Irene, with the death toll now at 15, Coast Guardsmen standing watch at Cape Cod are prepared for anything. 'Being ready during storms and foul weather is our mission, it's what we do,' said LT. j.g. Andrew Lund with the proud presence of the Coast Guardsmen facing a storm.
The Hurricane is now headed into Canada, and while it wreaked severe damage as it passed and the Coast Guard is responding to the many emergencies, authorities are relieved it was not as bad as expected.