Coast Guard crews are busy at work as rescue missions continue in the wake of the devastation. The powerful storm brought catastrophic flooding, high winds and storm surge to areas of Florida and was forecast to hit South Carolina on Friday.
“It’s a challenging mission, but our crews are well-trained and well-equipped for it,” Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson, who serves as commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District, told “CBS Mornings” Friday. “I talked to a number of crew members who did those missions yesterday and they faced devastating circumstances, you know, really uncharted terrain.
He said 16 US Coast Guard aircraft conducted rescues in parts of the air where planes don’t normally fly. The agency rescued about 95 people on Thursday and was looking for more people in need on Friday.
“They go to areas that we can’t get to any other way, not by boat or by land,” McPherson said. “But I will say that the Coast Guard is part of a unified approach to this. It’s an all-around effort across the board.”
Teams, he said, have “sectioned” the affected areas and are “methodically going from box to box to clear those areas to make sure people are safe.”
“Think of a military operation,” McPherson said.
Along with conducting air rescues, the Coast Guard is also working to reopen ports closed amid the storm. McPherson said he expects the Port of Tampa Bay to reopen as early as late Friday afternoon.
“We’re here for the long haul,” he said.
The commander said the response in Florida was “more than just a mission.” More than 4,000 residents who are in the Coast Guard were affected, he said, and more than 300 were in some of the hardest-hit areas.
Crews are also preparing for what McPherson called the “second front of the war” as the powerful storm heads toward South Carolina.
He urged those affected by the storm to call 911 and discouraged the use of social media to contact first responders.
“We are part of this community and we stand side by side with our neighbors,” he said. “We will get through this and heal.