Louisiana begins long, slow recovery from Hurricane Ida
NOAA damage assessment imagery has revealed some of the damage dealt by Hurricane Ida to the seafood industry in the U.S. state of Louisiana, more than a week after the storm made landfall on 29 August.
Some areas of the state’s coastline remained nearly inaccessible as response efforts continued, according to local seafood representatives.
“We’ve just been waiting, they won’t let us out there,” said Ngoc Tran of St. Vincent Seafood Co., who on Thursday, 2 September, was waiting in Cut Off, Louisiana, for the road to open to the company’s dock at Golden Meadow about 20 miles away. One of the company’s trawlers lay on its side, kicked over by Hurricane Ida’s 150 mile-per-hour gusts. Tran said she was searching for arrangements to get towing assistance to help right the boat.
“It’s bad where we are. I’m sure up close and personal it’s even worse,” she said. “We’ll look for tugs to pull her out.”
Commercial fishermen who had secured their vessels in tried-and-true storm refuges found many capsized or washed away by Ida’s strong winds.
Reports continued to come in of heavy damage but quantifying it remains difficult, according to Louisiana Sea Grant Seafood Industry Liaison Julie Falgout of Louisiana Sea Grant.
“There’s major damage at Dean Blanchard [Seafood Co.]” in Grand Isle, with “boats sunk, a couple they can’t find,” Falgout said. “It’s unbelievable, and I can’t even get down to the bayous.”
Freezer plants and fuel docks knocked out mean even fishermen who can get out don’t have support, Falgout said.
“There’s no capacity. There’s so much trash in the water, they won’t be able to fish close to shore,” she said.
Seven of the state’s 17 refineries remained shut down as of 1 September. Valero’s facility in St. Bernard Parish had its docks battered by runaway barges that broke loose. The Associated Press reported that cleanup was continuing after flooding inside the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement activated its hurricane response team as Hurricane Ida made its way through the Gulf of Mexico, monitoring offshore oil and gas operators as they evacuated platforms and rigs. Data from operator reports on 1 September showed personnel were evacuated from 249 production platforms, or 44.46 percent of the 560 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to BSSE.
Based on operator reports BSSE estimated 79.96 percent of current oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was shut in, along with 83.21 percent of the gas production.
“After the storm has passed, facilities will be inspected,” the agency said. “Once all standard checks have been completed, production from undamaged facilities will be brought back online immediately. Facilities sustaining damage may take longer to bring back online."
Portable generators again are posing a lethal threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, as people try to cope with power outages and a 100-degree heat index.
After recent hurricanes, the recovery periods have been as lethal as storms themselves. After Hurricane Laura in 2020, several shrimp fishermen taking refuge in a social club were poisoned by fumes from a portable generator.
Authorities reported similar cases in recent days, including one death in Orleans Parish that raised the storm’s toll to eight people. After continuing on to the Mid-Atlantic, Ida dumped seven inches of rainfall on New York City on 1 September, triggering an unprecedented flash flood emergency in the city as subway stations and basement apartments were inundated and cars and buses stranded. City officials reported 11 deaths in flooded apartments.
Reporting by Kirk Moore
Photo courtesy of St. Vincent Seafood