AIRCRAFT CARRIER IN HURRICANE FLOYD
Author Unknown - Submitted by John Ingram
Looks like a walk in the Park. Nothing ever happens on a nice sunny day.
Dear fellow Coasties,
If you' re still missing the good 'ol days of being underway or just plain "life at sea" here's one for you that my cousin, a retired Navy E9 who also had many years on carriers sent me.
It's quite a story.
Jon von Kessel
FROM THE INTERNET: A Navy chief aboard the USS Kennedy CV-67 that sortied because of Hurricane Floyd posted this. I'm going to keep this on file, and read it whenever I start missing going to sea. Who says Helo Pilots don't have big cahoonas?
The Story is as follows
Well, as for Hurricane Floyd.... We got underway too late. That's all there is to it. All of the other ships left Monday night but by delaying until Tuesday morning we managed to head straight into the teeth of Hurricane Floyd, which was still at Category five at that point. I have been going to sea for over 17 years now and have been in two other hurricanes and the North Atlantic in winter. I have never, ever, seen the likes of this storm.
Our forecastle (the forward part of the ship where the anchor and chains are kept) is 60 feet above waterline. It flooded with about two feet of seawater. Think about that, swells over six stories high, breaking on the bow hard enough to drive water up the hawsepipe (the tube that the chain runs through). Yikes! We could not lower the aircraft elevators because they would have been submerged at scope.
So, after a day and a half of 20 degree rolls we finally break out in front of the storm. But wait...we receive a maritime distress call from a Tug boat. A quick fix on the coordinates shows that the tug is dead north of the eye, 400 miles from Jacksonville and the storm is heading north at 15 knots, still category 5!
We turn around and head back into the hurricane. The ship continues to sustain 20 degree rolls, not bad for a frigate but horrendous for an 80,000 ton aircraft carrier. The wind is blowing so hard that conversation is impossible on the bridge without shouting. It sounds like the crowd at Veterans Stadium at full roar after an Eagles' interception!
A periodic staccato "Bang" announces the departure of one of our lifeboats, carried away with a wave. Everywhere throughout the ship, paper, trash, clothes, books, tools, copiers, computers, binders, bookcases, furniture and 1000's of bits of unidentifiable debris is bouncing from one side of the ship to the other, with an ugly, broken-pendulum, irregularity.
After a day of steaming headlong into 140 knot winds we arrive at the spot where the tug went down. Incredibly the crew has escaped into a lifeboat and was able to communicate with the ship. Miraculously, the wind dies down; if you call 70 knots 'dying down' and we are able to maneuver the ship so the island provides a lee for the helos to launch.
Of course, the minute they lift off they are back into 70 knot winds.
Somehow they get to the lifeboat and lift the three survivors out.
Happy to be alive, the crew makes it back onto the ship. Only one
problem: what about the rest of the crew? HUH??? Yup, it seems as though the crew was eight men, three made it into the lifeboat but five were stranded on the barge they were towing. Now we have to guess set and drift on a low-lying unpowered barge drifting with the winds and seas for an indefinite period of time. Oh, and by now the wind has picked back up to over 120 knots.
I have got to give credit to advanced technology. A barge in that
hurricane would have an incredibly small signal-to-noise ratio, impossible for regular radar to pick out. Suffice it to say, we were able to find them. Once again, into winds which make it hard to stand on the flight deck, let alone go flying, two helos take off. This time the rescue swimmers have to go into the water to harness the survivors.
Picture that, 60 foot swells translate into 30 foot waves. You are swimming with 3 story buildings of water crashing all around you. Really a truly heroic rescue for the survivors.
Well to end this story before it gets even longer; we return home on Friday. The ship is beat to crap. Twenty lifeboats have been carried away. The motor whaleboat resembles a couple of broken Jet-skis. Various bits and pieces have broken off elsewhere around the ship. The end result of which is an extra week at home before we deploy.
Jacksonville survives Floyd with a little flooding and some trees down (too damned many palm trees here anyway). We don't even lose power at the house.
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