Coast Guard continues Hurricane Sally response operations

Coast Guard crew in western Florida after Hurricane Sally, Sep. 17, 2020.

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has been busy the past few days rescuing people and pets from Hurricane Sally’s floodwaters. But this isn’t the only thing the USCG does after destructive coastal storms. It also makes our waterways safe again for navigation.

Multiple USCG units continue to conduct channel assessments, identifying and correcting aids to navigation (ATON) outages. They are also reviewing channel surveys to fully reconstitute all waterways.

Sally’s impact area — southwestern Alabama to western Florida — includes more than 1,400 ATON. The hurricane may have damaged some of them or moved them off station, so verification of ATON is ongoing. The USCG 8th District, which covers the entire U.S. Gulf Coast, oversees more than 23,000 ATON.

ATON can provide boaters and ship captains with the same type of information drivers get from street signs, stop signals, road barriers, detours and traffic lights. These aids include lighthouses, minor lights, day beacons, range lights and sound signals, as well as lighted or unlighted buoys.

For Hurricane Sally response efforts, the Coast Guard deployed a total of 17 helicopters, three fixed-wing aircraft, seven Shallow Water Response Teams with more than 20 boats, two Marine Safety and Security Teams with more than 10 boats and one Coast Guard cutter to act as a potential communication platform.

After slamming the coast, Sally flooded inland portions of the Southeast. Unfortunately, Sally killed at least two people — one in Alabama and one in Georgia, according to a CBS News report Friday.

U.S. Coast Guard in western Florida after Hurricane Sally on Thursday. (Photo: Sydney Phoenix/U.S. Coast Guard)

While flooding was the most dangerous threat, Sally also caused widespread wind damage and power outages. As of late Friday afternoon, according to, more than 300,000 customers still had no electricity in southwestern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on Monday, two days before Sally’s landfall. She toured damaged areas Friday.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has waived some of its hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers who are directly involved in hurricane recovery at the Gulf Coast.

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