Petty Officer Tom Atkeson said Friday afternoon that the five Coast Guard and Air Force aircraft, hauling rescue swimmers, were forced to land in Lake Charles, La.
Atkeson told The Associated Press that the planes encountered winds of 80 knots, about 92 mph, at the site of the drifting freighter, about 120 miles southeast of Galveston. Such strong winds are above the safety parameters for a rescue attempt.
Twenty-two men are aboard the 584-foot freighter Antalina, which sent out a radio call for help just after 4 a.m. Friday.
Atkeson says the Coast Guard is in contact with the crewmen and using weather instruments on the ship, built in 1984, and might be able to relaunch a rescue attempt later.
The aircraft, including some with hoist operations, are based at Hurlburt Air Force Base near Pensacola, Fla., and Coast Guard units in Mobile, Ala.