U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia: Recovery after Typhoon Mangkhut

by U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific
Stripes Guam

Typhoon Mangkhut left hundreds homeless, caused widespread outages, flooded areas, knocked down power lines and trees, and canceled dozens of flights. The storm passed almost directly over Rota, but Guam and the surrounding areas still experienced typhoon-force winds.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) homeported in Apra Harbor Guam, is a 225-foot buoy tender. The Sequoia crew immediately got to work following the storm conducting aids to navigation assessments and recovery operations. Reopening the ports is a critical step in any post-storm recovery phase and in an isolated location where so much is dependant on cargo it is vital.

In Tinian, the crew position-checked all five of the Tinian Harbor Channel Buoys to ensure they still adequately marked the channel and were not moved by the storm swells. Crewmembers also replaced an extinguished light on Tinian Harbor Channel Buoy 4.

Before any climb, and especially after a storm, an aids to navigation structure assessment is conducted to ensure they are safe to climb.

“Replacing dayboards is always challenging because of their weight, size, and proclivity for catching the wind,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christian Adams, commanding officer, Sequoia. “It takes good coordination and communication between climbers and ground crew to safely hoist the boards up into the structure and position climbers around them to make the connections. Thankfully there was no damage to the structure which would prevent safe climbing or replacing the board.”

Rota West Harbor is the port of entry for all commercial goods and relief supplies into Rota. The only aid to navigation for entering the harbor is the range marker that allows vessel operators to determine where the channel to enter the port lies. As part of the post-storm survey, the crew replaced the two-year-old dayboard on the front range marker torn off by the storm and ensured the proper operation of the range lights.

“I believe that all aids to navigation are important, especially for inexperienced captains coming into a new port,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Gerard Contrera, a boatswain's mate aboard Sequoia. “I take great pride in knowing that the work we do benefits the local communities during tough times after storms and natural disasters.”

In both Tinian and Rota, the Sequoia’s small boat was used by the crew to navigate and visually survey the harbor looking for large debris or other hazards which might have been present after the storm. The team found no adverse impacts.

After assessments in each port, the crew reported their findings to the Captain of the Port in Guam, Capt. Christopher Chase, who was then able to re-open both ports to vessel traffic after the storm as the ports were deemed safe for regular vessel traffic operations.

The Coast Guard is continuing to work with partners at FEMA, federal, state, territory and local agencies to aid in recovery from storm impacts throughout the Pacific following Typhoon Mangkhut in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hurricane Olivia in Hawaii.

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