CG Air Station Kodiak — Where do Helos and C-130s go when they evacuate?


Six aircraft scrambled shortly after initial Tsunami Warning issued.

One C-130 flew to Anchorage to check for damage in airport runways.

One H-60 helicopter flew south to warn and assist each of Kodiak’s villages.

Others had specialized missions specific to tsunami warning.


When the National Weather Service sends out a Tsunami Warning people aren’t the only things in Kodiak that have to evacuate. So, too, does any number of heavy equipment and aircraft that will be needed either during or following a tsunami.

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.

Personnel at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak must react quickly to get the precious rescue craft safely out of the path of any potential tsunami.  But they don’t just get airborne and flitter away the time like seagulls. Each aircrew on each aircraft has specific duties depending on the emergency.



Click Arrow to listen to audio version of this story.


KMXT’s Maggie Wall has this story (listen to audio of story above) on what the helos and C-130s do while they are in the sky awaiting the all clear that tells them they can return to home base.

About 25 minutes after the initial warning on Friday, the Air Station had scrambled flight crews and had six aircraft airborne, and on their way to complete their specific mission.

LCDR Tom Huntley is the Air Station’s Assistant Ops Officer and an H-60 Jayhawk pilot.


“We scrambled our crews and very quickly, since we have a tsunami plan everyone kind of has an idea of what the specific job that they need to do. So we towed aircraft out onto the line. Identified pilots. Myself and another pilot, and we had two flight mechanics and two rescue swimmers. We took some gear, got into one of the helicopters and got airborne. We were airborne a little after nine in the morning.”


His helo was sent south.


“My crew, we were tasked to go south along the east coast of Kodiak. And we were making call-outs on various radio frequencies to alert mariners and aircraft and anyone we could find that this warning had been issued. In addition, we went to each of the villages, to Old Harbor and all the way down to Ahkiok, to make sure, one, that everyone was informed, two, that there were no medical emergencies or any issues that we could help with. And once we got that completed we came back to Kodiak once the warning had been lifted.”


Huntley said since the C-130s have a longer range, one was sent north toward Anchorage.


“One, to see if there was wave propagation. And, two, to do an initial damage assessment. Because a lot of the runways in Anchorage were damaged, we were actually one of the first aircraft on the scene that was able to relay down to the ground some of the oversight of the damage.”


Huntley noted that the Air Station has contingency plans to relocate operations so that they can continue their missions. For instance, moving communications units and fuel trucks to higher ground.

He says a helo only needs a small area to land and refuel, and C-130s carry enough fuel to go to Seattle if necessary.

We tend to think of the Coast Guard as the people who do the rescuing, but what is it like to leave not knowing if your family will need rescued in your absence.


“It’s scary, obviously, to take off not knowing that everyone safe. But, I’ve got two kids in the schools here. And my wife, I found out later on, had gone and made sure that they were OK.  And so it’s always good to have a plan in place before the emergency happens so you know what to do when it does occur.”


Having an emergency plan in place and having a go bag ready to take in an emergency is advice that’s being given a lot this week.


 CLICK HERE to go to KMXT’s Emergency Prep Page to learn how to make your family’s evacuation plan.

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