Sunday, October 29, 2017

Zachary Phelps: Coast Guard flight mechanic shares experience in Puerto Rico

Petty Officer Second Class Zachary Phelps, a Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay flight mechanic, recently returned from assisting in relief efforts in Puerto Rico.


Petty Officer Second Class Zachary Phelps was sent by Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay to help with relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

After returning earlier this month, the flight mechanic told the Times-Standard it was an eye-opening experience.

“Just seeing whole hillsides of trees on their sides, it just helps you understand how high these winds were,” Phelps said.

The storm hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane Sept. 20 with winds up to 155 mph. It killed 51 people, flattened Puerto Rico’s electrical system, decimated thousands of homes and left tens of thousands of people unemployed — many of whom have left for the U.S. mainland in search of jobs and to enroll their children in school.

About 75 percent of the island remains without power. Roughly 20 percent is without water, and officials warn that those who do have water service still need to boil it before drinking it.

Phelps said he aided relief efforts in Puerto Rico for two weeks. He went on a humanitarian flight mission and worked to make sure the helicopters were in shape to fly for missions, which went out every day.

During one mission, the crew’s Dolphin helicopter landed in an area just wide enough for the blades and long enough for the nose of the rotorcraft, he said.

“It was wider than a golf cart, maybe one car one way would be able to fit,” Phelps said.

The area had two main access roads, both of which were washed out, Phelps said. Ready-to-eat meals and bottled water were dispensed to the community, he said.

Phelps said his primary mission was to alleviate the helicopter crew members from the local station, noting most of the Coast Guard crew members he was assigned to help were working long hours and still had to rebuild their communities.

Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay Deputy Commander Kevin Barres said in a statement the greatest strength of the Coast Guard is their ability to respond to crisis and integrate with other crew members to save lives.

Barres noted that the recent recovery efforts following the string of recent hurricanes are examples of crew members working together.

“The men and women of Sector Humboldt Bay were honored to play a part in those missions and are grateful for the continued support of our friends and neighbors here on the North Coast,” Barres wrote in a statement.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.times-standard.com

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