Always Ready: Coast Guard officers from Humboldt respond to Irma, Maria

McKinleyville, Ca., (KIEM)- Two Coast Guard officers from Sector Humboldt Bay live up to the motto “always ready,” lending help in command centers during Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in September.

Lieutenant Audra Forteza and Lieutenant Commander Ryan Ramos were sent first to St. Louis, then Miami. They weren’t flying helicopters or on the ground for search and rescue operations, but their contributions were no less important.

With roads to key west blocked, and the storms creating an urgent need for supplies in San Juan and other parts of Puerto Rico, the storms made the need for air support in transporting goods greater than the demand for search and rescue.

That’s where Forteza and Ramos came in, as they helped keep that supply line running from behind the scenes.

“It’s pretty hectic!” Forteza said, with Ramos adding that the atmosphere in at the command center was often chaotic. Chaotic, but controlled and effective. The two collaborated with C-130 pilots from North Carolina and Florida, as they flew multiple supply routes per day. They also worked with Customs Border patrol, NOAA, and local and state agencies.

“The situation was constantly changing, and we just had to flex to it the best we could.” Ramos said, “We got to get a peak behind the curtain, it was a good experience for all of us and we would definitely do it again.”

“It was definitely a great experience to see what was going on.” Fortzeza said. She explained that for her, the experience meant she could be more of an asset in emergency response in the future (acting as either a pilot, or helping out at a command center).