CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hurricane Dorian was the strongest category 5 hurricane on record to hit the Bahamas.
“There was not a tree standing, there was not a building that wasn’t gutted, there [were] debris everywhere,” said Lt. Commander Tony Lumpkin, of the U.S. Coast Guard. “The water was 20 to 30 feet above where it should’ve been.”
After he and his team skirted 20 to 30 miles around the edge of the massive system Lt. Commander Lumpkin and 900 U.S. Coast Guard members saw the devastation first hand and got to work.
“Not knowing where the hurricane was sitting, not knowing where the people were at, not knowing how to talk to them or get the word back — we basically had to go and find for the need was,” he said.
A job that was not easy and posed many challenges.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Air and Marine Operations members responded as well, each doing their part to save more than 250 people over a two-week.
The Coast Guard and CBP crews faced hurricane force winds, periods of near zero visibility, and flying debris to designated safe landing zones for mass medical evacuations.
“They saved lives unselfishly, unhesitatingly. I couldn’t have been more honored to be part of that team,” said Lt. Commander Lumpkin.
On Tuesday, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, handed out awards for their hard work and their drive to show the world what happened.
“You captured images and it garnered media attention to help mobilize the international community relief efforts,” Wolf said. “These efforts averted a post storm humanitarian crisis that likely saved thousands of more lives.”
He says both the Coast Guard and CBP conducted the very first assessment of the Bohemian ports as they opened up to receive relief supplies.
Lt. Commander Lumpkin says his team and the rest of the US coast Guard are ready to perform these duties at a moment’s notice and he couldn’t be more proud.