Gulf Coast Fishermen, Seafood Buyers Brace for Gustav
Upper Gulf Coast fishermen scrambled this week to haul as much seafood as possible in anticipation of Gustav.
The tropical storm, which is battering Jamaica today, is expected to strengthen over the Gulf and develop into a major hurricane this weekend as it heads toward the upper Gulf Coast. Meteorologists project landfall anywhere from Panama City, Fla., to Corpus Christi, Texas, by Tuesday evening. New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago today, is at the center of the projected path.
"It would be no surprise if rapid intensification occurred and Gustav became a Category 4 or 5 hurricane by 72 hours," wrote National Weather Service meteorologists on the agency's Web site.
Some fishermen will hurry today to find safe moorings; others will try to ride out the storm on their vessels.
Dean Blanchard of Grand Isle, La., who owns one of the largest seafood docks in the state, plans to shut down operations for the weekend later today, as are many seafood buyers along Louisiana's low-lying coastline. To avoid the costly damage he sustained during Katrina, he's asking most fishermen to leave his docks and move.
"It's like heat-seeking missiles, man, when those boats break loose," Blanchard told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "The water and the winds might not be that bad, but if you've got a 90-foot boat going with it that's a lot of damage."
"Everybody's seen and learned," said Acy Cooper, a Venice, La., shrimper who motored 12 hours up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge before Katrina and plans to do so again if Gustav nears. "If there's anything big at all, we're just not going to hang around."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency to lay the groundwork for federal assistance. Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration, and together they put 8,000 National Guard troops on standby.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he would order a mandatory evacuation of the city if forecasters predict a Category 3 strike, or possibly even a Category 2, within 72 hours. Both Jindal and Nagin are meeting with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.