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Eye On Weather: U.S. Coast Guard Prepared For All Hazardous Conditions

By Eric Fisher, WBZ-TV Chief Meteorologist
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WBZ-TV's Eric Fisher Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher is Chief Meteorologist for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV News and...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The cold water off the shore can be extremely dangerous during a winter storm.

But, the United States Coast Guard has to operate in anything that Mother Nature throws at New England.

On the day we joined them, they were practicing towing a disabled ship during a storm and rescuing a person floundering in frigid Atlantic waters.

If you are the one in this situation, a quick response is paramount.

The Coast Guard practicing a rescue in Boston Harbor. (WBZ-TV)

The Coast Guard practicing a rescue in Boston Harbor. (WBZ-TV)

Timing is everything during these big winter storms, because if you go overboard unprotected in the middle of winter, you’ve got, at most, 40 minutes to live.

Leading the mission is Boatswains Mate 2nd Class Dan Foley, who says even in the depths of winter, the tumultuous water is never empty.

“Commercial fishermen, their livelihood is fishing, so they will be out all year round,” he told WBZ-TV.

Last winter kept the Coast Guard station in Boston on their toes, especially during the February 9th Blizzard which brought in a threatening storm surge.

Waves battered the Massachusetts coast during the February blizzard in 2013. (WBZ-TV)

Waves battered the Massachusetts coast during the February blizzard in 2013. (WBZ-TV)

“We actually had to get underway, midnight, winds gusting, snow absolutely everywhere,” Foley said.

All are members of 11,000-strong First District, covering much of the Northeast and adjacent waters.

Ice rescue experts train in Burlington, Vermont while 13 ice cutters keep heating oil and other commerce flowing on the Penobscot, Kennebunk, and Hudson rivers.

They’re all under the command of Rear Admiral Dan Abel.

“On any given day, the First District is going to save a life, assist nine, and do seven major search and rescue cases,” Abel said.

During the winter, he’ll make sure mariners know where destructive icebergs lurk, monitor fishing fleets, and send crews out for marine broadcast, warning of imminent danger.

And there’s always the old fashioned way to keep people from harm.

“We actually can trace a home phone number from their emergency transmitter, call home and say, does your loved one know that the storm’s coming and a lot of times a satellite call later, you’ll see the blips start heading towards the shore,” Abel told WBZ.

The work being done is all to get ready for the pivotal moment when waves rock and snow flies. When that day comes, these men and women will be ready.

What does the Coast Guard ask of you?

Save them time and money.

Thousands of dollars are wasted every year because people don’t use information tags on their boats or kayaks.

They say that simple step can avoid hours of search and rescue if your equipment is spotted somewhere empty.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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