BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — More than 491 and counting was the number of rescues logged in Texas by members of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit Huntington.
The team of six, based in Cabell County, was on site in Houston, Tx. through Wednesday, Aug. 30 after leaving West Virginia last Friday to support the response to Tropical Storm Harvey which originally made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane.
Search and rescue was their main mission, said Chief Warrant Officer Chris Blank who spoke with MetroNews Wednesday from the MSU’s headquarters in Barboursville.
“They’re working in coordination with the Incident Command. That is a partnership between state, local and federal officials (who) are all working together,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, the team was en route from Houston, Tx. to Port Arthur, Tx., south of Beaumont, where heavy rain, measuring close to two feet in places, had fallen since Tuesday.
The National Weather Service was reporting “catastrophic flooding” in that area which had already been inundated by rain.
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall for a 3rd time around 5 a.m. Wednesday near Cameron, La., located east of Port Arthur, Tx.
Team members were traveling with a truck and trailer hauling three boats able to access shallow areas.
Overall, officials in Texas were estimating 13,000 rescues in Houston and surrounding areas had been successfully completed as of the start of Wednesday.
The work in Houston is similar to the response from members of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Huntington Western River Flood Punt Team in West Virginia in the aftermath of the June 2016 Flood.
Blank could not immediately predict what the future involvement of Marine Safety Unit Huntington in the Harvey response would look like.
“We may send a relief crew down for them. They may ask for additional people,” said Blank. “As the situation starts to unfold here in the next couple of days, it depends on what other additional help Houston would need.”
When not responding to disasters, patrols and safety enforcement along the Ohio River are the primary responsibilities of Marine Safety Unit Huntington.
It’s made up of 25 active members and roughly 25 reservists, according to Blank.
“The Coast Guard’s committed to the safety and preservation of life of, not just West Virginians, but all Americans and we’re going to do our best to fulfill that mission,” he said.