Isle relief en route for
victims of hurricane

Seventeen Barbers Point Coast Guard Air Station personnel and a C-130 cargo plane were to leave this morning to join the relief effort for Hurricane Rita, now churning toward Texas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lt. Patrick Murphy, backup pilot of the C-130, said the aircraft and Coast Guard personnel will first fly to Sacramento, Calif. The personnel will be held there until they are redeployed sometime tomorrow after Hurricane Rita, a Category 5 storm with maximum winds of 190 mph, is expected to make landfall on the eastern Texas Gulf Coast area.

Besides the seven Coast Guard air crew members assigned to the C-130, there will be seven crew members of a HH-Dolphin 65 helicopter and three additional maintenance personnel making the flight.

Murphy, 37, said Barbers Point Coast Guard Air Station sent three helicopter pilots to help in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. "Two HH-65 pilots have been in New Orleans for the past two weeks," said Murphy, who has been in the Coast Guard for the past 13 years.

One of the pilots was Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Meyer, who was in the area for training when Katrina hit and was pressed into the relief effort. Meyer spent more than a week flying a Dolphin helicopter up to seven hours a day, and his crew rescued about 200 people from rooftops, balconies, streets, apartment buildings and other high-ground areas.

Murphy, who has been flying C-130s for four years, has flown several hurricane relief missions.

In September 2003 he piloted a C-130 cargo plane into the eye of Hurricane Isabel responding to a distress call off Puerto Rico. However, the crew was only able to find a life raft with no one in it.

A week later, Murphy flew supplies and people between St. Louis and Elizabeth City, N.C., where the Category 4 storm made landfall.

Last year, Murphy videotaped the shoreline before Hurricane Ivan hit Florida and then went back to record the damage created by the storm.

Murphy has family living in Texas with a cousin who plans to leave Houston sometime today.

"My immediate family lives five hours north of Houston, and they expect to feel the effects," he added.

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