The Coast Guard's Response to Natural Disasters and Events of National Significance
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U. S. Coast Guard Operations
During Natural Disasters & 
Incidents of National Significance

Floods, Tidal Waves, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Oil Spills, Volcanic Eruptions, Epidemics, Mass Migrations, Terrorist Attacks
& Other Events With A Significant National Impact

A photo of San Francisco burning after the 1906 earthquake-Library of Congress photo, LC-USZ62-130410.

San Francisco burns after the 1906 earthquake.
Library of Congress image

Year / Type of Event
(Click on name of event for more information & photography if available)

Brief Summary of USRCS, USLSS USLHS or USCG Response
 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic  
 1883 Grand River, Lake Erie Flood "Service personnel rescued 200 and transported 250 others to safety"
 1884 Ohio River Flood "In February, 1884, in a flood on the Ohio River, at Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington and Newport, Ky., more than 800 persons were rescued or relieved from situations of distress by the service personnel."
 1899 Brazos River Flood  "In July, 1899, in an overflow of the Brazos River, inundating the country for hundreds of miles, the service men were instrumental in rescuing with the surfboats 257 persons, and with other boats in their charge 300 persons [for a total of 557 rescued]. Their operations covered 150 miles over a country completely devastated."
 1900 Galveston Hurricane ". . .splendid work was done by service forces in rescuing victims of the disaster and otherwise assisting the stricken population; in policing the city, issuing rations, repairing the lighthouse and starting the light, getting public utilities again in operation, and disposing of several thousands of the dead."  Two Revenue cutters staged out of Mobile to transport food & medical supplies to devastated areas.
 1905 Yellow Fever Epidemic "The revenue cutter service played a role by helping to contain the epidemic in the Gulf of Mexico . . . the federal government ordered revenue cutters to establish and preserve the peace and to enforce a quarantine between Louisiana and Florida."  Six cutters, seven chartered vessels, 200 RCS officers and men participated in the action.  They stopped and examined 1,923 merchant vessels and held more than 250 for fumigation.  According to Secretary of the Treasury Leslie M. Shaw, "Not a case of yellow fever entered any locality by water within the limits of the [RCS] patrol."
  1906 San Francisco Earthquake Six cutter and their crews responded to the 18 April 1906 earthquake that struck San Francisco.  They provided fire-fighting assistance, kept the peace, guarded the U.S. Mint and other government properties, transported currency to safety, and provided relief to the displaced.
 1907 Ohio River Flood "In January, 1907, in a flood on the Ohio River at Louisville, Ky., and vicinity, through the assistance of service men, 429 persons were removed to placed of safety.  They also distributed food and fuel to 2,500 flood sufferers, transported physicians, performed ambulance duty for city hospitals, assisted in keeping the public utilities in operation, and in collecting and distributing the city's mail by transporting the [mail] carriers."
 1909 Texas Hurricane "In July 1909, following a hurricane on the coast of Texas, the service personnel performed splendid service in rescuing and succoring the victims of the disaster."
1912 Eruption of Novarupta-Katmai Volcano
Kodiak, Alaska
The Novarupta-Katmai Volcano erupted near Kodiak, Alaska, from 6 to 9 June, 1912.  Revenue Cutter Manning and other cutters as well as personnel assisted in relief efforts, including providing fresh water to the inhabitants of Kodiak, distributing relief supplies, and building a new village for the displaced inhabitants.  The new village was named Perry after the commanding officer of Manning, Revenue Captain K. W. Perry, USRCS.
 1912 Texas Hurricane "In October 1912, in another hurricane striking the Texas coast in the vicinity of Brazos, the service people removed a number of persons from Padre Island and then proceeded to Isabel and employed their time in relieving the distress of the inhabitants and assisting them to recover what was left of their property.  This storm destroyed the Brazos Life-Saving Station."
 1913 Flood in Ohio, Indiana & Kentucky Service personnel "rescued and succored" 3,509 persons.
 1913 Flood of the Brazos & Colorado Rivers Service personnel rescued "491 persons from perilous positions" and "succored 312 persons." 
 1915 Gulf Coast Hurricane  "On August 16, 1915, a disastrous hurricane accompanied by flood swept the Gulf coast entirely destroying the Velasco, San Luis, and Galveston Coast Guard stations, with practically all their equipment, and claiming the lives of two members of the crew of the Velasco station and of four members of the crew of the San Luis station. Several members of the families of the Coast Guardsmen and a number of persons who had sought refuge at the stations also perished.  No loss of life occurred at the Galveston station, and the station crew was able to effect the rescue of a number of persons by carrying them from the island upon which the station stood."
1916 Gulf Coast Hurricane Cutter Tallapoosa rode out the 1916 Gulf Coast hurricane in Mobile, Alabama and then provided relief services to the affected areas.  Tallapoosa was commanded by Revenue Cutter Service First Lieutenant James F. Hottel.
1916 Black Tom Incident
1918 T.A. Gillespie Co. Explosion
 1919 Atlantic-Gulf Hurricane (also referred to as the 1919 Florida Keys Hurricane)  
 1919 Influenza Epidemic Surfman L. E. Ashton, of Station No. 305 (Nome, Alaska) undertook a relief expedition to "influenza sufferers at Cape Prince of Wales, 160 miles from Nome, and at native villages between those two points" beginning on 6 December 1918 with a sled dog and medicinal supplies.  He treated all of the sick at 8 villages along the way and arrived at Cape Prince of Wales on 13 December.  He cared for the 122 natives who were sick and buried the 157 who had died of the disease.  He returned to his station by 1 March 1919.

The cutters Unalga and Bear provided relief supplies, care and medical attention to native populations in Alaska, primarily at Unalaska and Dutch Harbor.  They also established an orphanage and buried the dead. [1920 Annual Report]
 1922 Ohio-Mississippi Valley Flood "Hundreds of persons were taken from positions of peril and exposure, food transported and distributed, refugees picked up and sent to their homes, and 1,000 head of livestock were collected and delivered to their owners." [1922 Annual Report]
 1926 "Great Miami Hurricane" The Coast Guard immediately got into action with all its available forces in Florida waters and began a systematic program of relief work.  [A fleet of four Coast Guard destroyers was dispatched from Base New London with relief supplies, including large amounts of food and medicine.]  The relief measures afforded by the Coast Guard included such services as patrolling the affected areas, guarding property, maintaining public order, regulating traffic, improvising hospitals, furnishing provisions and water to destitute persons, recovering bodies, caring for the injured, searching for the missing, clearing wreckage from the waters, removing debris, and assisting in the work of rehabilitation. [1927 Annual Report]
 1926 Illinois River Valley Flood The breaking of the levees along the Illinois River, caused by heavy rains, resulted in a destructive flood . . . and many communities along the river could be reached only by boats manned by experienced crews . . . The service men who were sent into the inundated territory . . . transported them to places of safety, and assisted in various ways many hundreds of persons who were in distress.
 1927 Mississippi River Basin Flood A total of 43,853 "persons removed from perilous positions to places of safety"; 11,313 head of livestock were saved; 72 persons in need of hospitalization were furnished transportation; 674 Coast Guardsmen and 128 Coast Guard vessels served in the relief operations.
 1928 San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane  
 1935 (September) Labor Day Hurricane &
1935 (November) Yankee Hurricane
"Following the disastrous hurricanes which swept Florida in September and November, 1935, 20 Coast Guard vessels and 6 airplanes carried relief supplies to survivors, conducted surveys of stricken areas, and assisted the Red Cross and local and Federal agencies in their relief work.  Coast Guard planes also distributed hurricane warnings to small craft and isolated communities."
 1936 New England Flood "In cooperation with the American Red Cross, the Coast Guard dispatched 200 men, 45 boats, 6 airplanes, and 4 communication trucks into the flooded areas of New England, Pennsylvania, and the Ohio Valley, to afford relief to the stricken population."
 1937 Mississippi River Basin Flood A Coast Guard relief force of 142 officers and 1,706 enlisted men carried out what was (to date) "the largest relief expedition in Coast Guard history.  During their relief work they "rescued" 839 and "transported to safety" 67,613.

SAR narrative, illustrated
 1938 New England Hurricane 509 vessels were assisted; 1,011 "persons were rescued from positions of peril."

SAR narrative from Surfman Gerrett Gregory who served at Station Galloo Island.

Damage to Coast Guard stations report
 1943 Mississippi River Basin Flood 5,000 transported to safety
 1944 "Great Atlantic Hurricane"
Coast Guardsmen rescued/evacuated a total of 81 persons.

Two civilians in Long Beach, NY, were rescued by Coast Guardsmen while 47 civilians were either rescued or evacuated from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Thirty-two survivors from CGCs Bedloe & Jackson were rescued (47 of the cutters' crews perished.  Additionally the 12 crewmen aboard LV-73 were lost when their lightship sank during the storm).  Coast Guard relief operations included transporting supplies in DUKWs to the Cape Hatteras region & repairing telephone lines along the North Carolina coast.  The CGC Pamlico delivered 16,000 gallons of fresh water, 2,500 feet of lumber and 60 tons of coal to the Cape Hatteras region.  Coast Guardsmen also assisted in the rebuilding of homes that were damaged or destroyed by the hurricane and refloating fishing vessels deposited ashore by the storm surge. 

 1946 Aleutian Tsunami  
 1952 (April) Missouri River Flood 1,205 persons "rescued"
 1954 Hurricanes Carol & Edna  
 1954 Hurricane Hazel  
 1955 Hurricanes Connie & Diane  
 1955 California Flood  
 1957 Hurricane Audrey  
 1957 Hurricane Nina  
 1960 Hurricane Donna  
 1960 Hurricane Ethel  
 1961 Hurricane Carla  
 1962 Eastern Seaboard Storm  
 1964 Hurricane Hilda  
 1964 Northern California & Oregon Flood  
 1964 Alaska Earthquake An earthquake which hit 9.2 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami struck Alaska, killing 125 people and causing $311 million in property damage.  Coast Guard units responded in what was called "Operation Helping Hand." 
 1965 Camarioca, Cuba Boatlift 5,730 migrants were "assisted" during the calendar year.
 1965 Hurricane Betsy In Louisiana 1,144 persons were evacuated by 11 Coast Guard helicopters; small boats and vehicles evacuated 3,600 more.  The service also transported to safety over 8,000 persons "from flooded areas to high ground" around the New Orleans area.
1966 North Dakota Red River Flood
 1967 Hurricane Beulah  
 1969 Hurricane Camille  
 1970 Hurricane Celia  
 1971 Hurricanes Fern & Ginger  
 1971 Hurricane Edith  
 1972 Hurricane Agnes  
 1972 Celeste  
 1979 Hurricane David  
 1979 Hurricane Frederick  
 1980 Mariel Boatlift

"Thousands" of persons and vessels were assisted by the 6,636 Coast Guardsmen who served in the Mariel Boatlift operation.  "Hundreds of boats were seized".  Over 125,000 migrants made the voyage from Mariel to Florida.



1982 Hurricane Iwa Hurricane Iwa was the strongest hurricane to hit Hawaii since 1959; it caused $400,000 damage to local Coast Guard units.
 1983 Hurricane Alicia  
 1988 Hurricane Gilbert  
 1989 Hurricane Hugo  
1989 California Earthquake  
 1991 Haitian Exodus A total of 75 Coast Guard units took part in the massive SAR operation and by the end of 1991 alone the service rescued over 40,000 Haitian migrants.
 1992 Hurricane Andrew
 1993 Mississippi River Basin Flood  
 1993-4 Operation Able Manner  
 1994 Operation Able Vigil  
1994 Operation Uphold Democracy  
 1995 Hurricane Opal  
 1997 Red River Flood  
 1999 Hurricane Dennis  
 1999 Hurricane Floyd  
 2001 Terrorist Attacks,
New York City & Washington, D.C.
 On September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial U.S. aircraft, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.  The fourth aircraft crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The attacks killed over 3,000 innocent civilians.  Coast Guard units, including Reservists and Auxiliarists, were among the first military units to respond in order to provide communications, security, evacuation by water and render assistance to those in need.   Coast Guardsmen assisted in the search and rescue efforts as well as the cleanup operations after the attacks.
 2001 Anthrax Attacks  On October 15, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had anthrax in it.  This followed a number of other anthrax attacks in Florida and New York.  The EPA requested Coast Guard assistance.  Members of the Atlantic Strike Team deployed to Washington, D.C., while Gulf Strike Team members were deployed to Florida.  Strike team members conducted entries into the affected areas, collected samples, and assisted in the cleanup of those areas.  The AST members in Washington coordinated entries into the U.S. Capitol, Hart Senate Building, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Government Printing Office, among others.  The GST members took samples and provided decontamination stations at the American Media Inc. headquarters building and post offices in Boca Raton, Florida, the site of the first reported anthrax attack.
 2002 Hurricane Lili  
 2003 Hurricane Isabel  
 2004 Hurricane Charley  
 2004 Hurricane Francis  
 2004 Hurricane Ivan  
 2004 Hurricane Jeanne
 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Coast Guardsmen transported and delivered over 80 tons of humanitarian relief supplies.  Coast Guard units involved included CGC Munro, the Pacific Area Strike Team and 28 flight-crew members.  Coast Guard forces were assigned to U.S. Joint Task Force 536.
 2005 Hurricane Dennis
 2005 Hurricanes Katrina & Rita Coast Guardsmen rescued/transported to safety 33,584 during Hurricane  Katrina and 191 during Hurricane Rita.
2005 Hurricane Wilma  
2008 Midwest Floods
2008 Hurricane Gustav
2008 Hurricane Ike
2009 North Dakota Flood
2010 Haiti Earthquake  
2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill ISPR (2011)
2011 Midwest Floods  
2012 Superstorm Sandy  

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Last Modified 1/12/2016