PORTSMOUTH, Va, (WAVY) — Last week, a U.S. Navy helicopter took to the skies above Hampton Roads for a very important mission.
“We flew from basically here [Portsmouth] all the down to the High Rise Bridge and back to the York River,” said Coast Guard Capt. Sampson Stevens.
On board the helicopter were sailors and members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The whole point is kind of a post-storm assessment and opening up the waterways in the Hampton Roads area,” added Navy LCDR Joe Navarre.
The Coast Guard has the responsibility for closing down the port before a hurricane and opening it up once it passes.
“The port here in Virginia generates about $250 million of economic activity per day and that’s about $90 billion a year,” Stevens said.
But reopening the port takes time. Crews need to check to make sure the port is safe.
“Are the channel markers where they need to be?” Stevens asked. “Has the channel shoaled in? Is it sandy? Is there pollution? Are there people who need saving? That can take a long time.”
To speed up the process, the Coast Guard teamed up with the Navy.
“A lot of time, our aircraft are deployed for search-and-rescue and so we look at our partners,” Stevens said. “Is there other equipment that might be brought to bear to help us reopen the port?”
Last week, they flew the exact route they’ll be using in the future.
“We are stationed locally in the Hampton Roads area so we are familiar with flying down the Elizabeth River, the York River and the James River,” Navarre added.
Both branches say it’s about teamwork to get the port open as quickly as possible.
”Hopefully these relationships will help make us that much more prepared when that hurricane strikes our area,” Stevens said.
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