Opinion

Editorial: We can count on the Navy

In times of emergency the entire Northwest can count on the U.S. Navy from Oak Harbor.

Search and Rescue teams from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station worked tirelessly during the enormous flood event that started Monday, Dec. 3, when much of Interstate 5 and surrounding farmland in Lewis County was inundated by the rampaging Chehalis River.

Two MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters with their five-member Search and Rescue crews were dispatched from Whidbey and wasted no time coming to the rescue.

On Monday, the sailors saved an astounding total of 59 people, some of whom were clinging desperately to rooftops while others were standing on patches of high ground as the water rose ever closer.

The work continued Tuesday when another 43 desperate residents of the flood plain were transported to safety. This was not a low-risk mission. Hovering low over floodwaters while a rescue swimmer dangles from the end of a tether is no easy task, and hauling frightened people up to the helicopter takes an incredible amount of skill and coordination. The fact that much of this work was done in the dark makes it all the more impressive.

We tend to take our aviation safety net for granted, but it's comforting to know that the brave SAR men and women are ready at a moment's notice o help Americans in trouble. Generally we hear about their work sporadically, usually in connection with rescuing hikers and mountain climbers in the Cascade Mountains. But when disaster strikes, as we learned last week, the SAR crews at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station are ready to go above and beyond the call of duty to save lives.

Whidbey Island was lucky to have been spared the devastation of the last flood. But there's always another one in the future, caused by torrential rains, rapid snowmelt or even a tsunami. Knowing that the Knighthawks and their heroic crews are nearby is reassuring, to say the least.

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