FORKS — Surrounded by brown floodwaters and trees writhing in the wind, four children — including a baby — and six adults were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard outside Forks on Monday.
The evacuees, none of whom was injured, were flown into the city of Forks, where they could receive help finding alternative housing, Clallam County Fire District 1 Chief Bill Paul said Tuesday.
Clallam County dispatch had asked the Coast Guard for assistance at about 8 a.m. due to rising floodwaters and excessive currents, said Petty Officer Michael Clark of the Coast Guard’s District 13 headquarters in Seattle.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles arrived at 9:40 a.m. and sent down a rescue swimmer to search several residences but found no one. That crew departed the scene to refuel at the Quillayute Airport.
The search continued for people in distress as an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria flew in over the flooded area at about 11 a.m., Clark said.
That crew found residents of multiple homes waiting for help: some on a rooftop, others standing in the water, he said.
Using baskets and straps, two rescue swimmers — Chief Petty Officer Andy Burgard and Petty Officer Second Class Tatsu Evans — hoisted the 10 people, one by one, into the aircraft.
The Jayhawk helicopter, one of the workhorses of the Coast Guard’s aviation fleet, has enough weight capacity for a rescue of this size, Clark said.
In the area of the rescue, “there were, I believe, several feet of water, but it’s moving water,” he said, adding that even a few inches of swiftly moving floodwaters “can take people’s legs out.”
A video of the rescue is posted on the USCG Pacific Northwest Twitter page.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]