The NOAA weather and climate satellites that accurately tracked Hurricane Sandy's path in October also played a key role in rescuing 263 people in 111 emergencies in the United States and surrounding waters in 2012.
In addition to their role in weather prediction, the polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System, called Cospas-Sarsat. The system uses a network of satellites to quickly pinpoint the location of distress signals.
“NOAA satellites were instrumental in emergency situations,” NOAA SARSAT program manager Chris O’Connors said. “Our ability to pick up a distress signal, isolate the location within 100 yards and initiate the appropriate rescue response definitely saves lives.”
Of the 263 people who were rescued last year, 182 were from the water, 22 were from aviation incidents and 59 were from situations on land, where they used personal locator beacons. Other rescue highlights in 2012 included:
• Alaska had the most rescues with 45, followed by 38 in North Carolina and 25 in Florida.
• 14 people were rescued from the tall ship HMS Bounty, which was caught in a torrent of waves more than 200 miles off the North Carolina coast.
• Three people were rescued after their sailboat rolled in heavy waves off the San Francisco coast.
• Five people were pulled to safety in the Gulf of Mexico when their fishing boat began taking on water.
• Seven were rescued 400 miles west of Honolulu after their fishing boat caught fire.