Photos: Coast Guard Rescues Baton Rouge Flood Victims
The U.S. Coast Guard has deployed in force to respond to flooding in Baton Rouge, assisting thousands of victims and saving hundreds with airborne and surface search and rescue teams.
Since response efforts began on Saturday, the USCG Eighth District's four helicopter air crews and seven boat crews have rescued 200 people and assisted 3,000 more.
The agency's helicopters were the only SAR resources flying continuously overnight on Saturday.
One aircrew had to resort to unorthodox methods to navigate to victims' locations for the inland SAR effort.
"The area near Baton Rouge was highly flooded, devastated and the information that we were given as an aircrew [was] a home address versus a GPS waypoint," said LTJG Simon Gottenberg, a helicopter pilot with Air Station New Orleans. "We used our cell phones to type in someone's home address in order to find them."
LTJG Gottenberg's crew had to return several times to one response at a trailer park in Baton Rouge, bringing back a total of nine people and two dogs. On the final run, the helicopter hit its low fuel alert point as they completed the rescue.
Pilot LTJG Mike Hennebery also said that the inland rescue conditions were challenging compared with rescues at sea. "There were downed power lines and houses on fire, and we had to stay above the treeline to stay safe," he said. "When we were rescuing two female individuals who were stranded at their house with no other surface assets on scene, we did that hoist from about two hundred feet . . .[and] the cloud layer was about three hundred feet. We dropped our rescue swimmer onto the back porch on the second story, and we were worried about the wind, swinging that rescue swimmer into obstacles like power lines and trees."
The Louisiana National Guard has deployed five helicopters, and Hennebery said that coordinating between all the air assets and maintaining an appropriate distance between each helicopter's airspace was a challenge.
In addition to the air assets, the National Guard has mobilized 1,700 troops, 130 high-water-capable vehicles and nearly 40 boats; it has additional vehicles and troops mobilizing now, including military police to reinforce and relieve local law enforcement forces.
All images courtesy USCG / Louisiana National Guard