Aug 29, 2012 – Hurricane Isaac

Dredge and Rainey Report

August 29, 2012

Hurricane Isaac made landfall just southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph at 6:45 pm on Tuesday, August 29, 2012. It then wobbled westward back over water to make landfall again just west of Port Fourchon at 2:15 am on Wednesday morning, August 30.

Prior to the storm, on Monday, August 27, Karen Westphal and Paul Kemp traveled to the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary to help Timmy Vincent evacuate the Rainey headquarters. Erik Johnson arrived later in the afternoon to help move the dredge to a protected location and to extract all of the boats.

Figure 1. A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Isaac as it approached Louisiana.

Figure 1. A NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Isaac as it approached Louisiana.

Paul and Karen arrived at the marina at 8:00. Karen drove the Goose back to Rainey while Timmy went to go pick up a flatbed trailer. We tied the Goose in front of the house and took the flat boat to the dredge, where we stripped the dredge of anything movable, laid the pump onto the deck and strapped it down, and then stowed all parts and pieces back at the workshop at headquarters. Paul and I took both boats back to the dredge area, as we would need the Goose to tow the dredge.

Figure 2. Minor injuries with promised scars to commemorate Hurricane Isaac.
Figure 2. Minor injuries with promised scars to commemorate Hurricane Isaac.

As I brought the Goose against the bank to tie it up, I tripped over the transom between the cabin and deck and fell flat on my face, literally. I lay there for a moment feeling quite ridiculous and making sure all of my parts worked. I thought I had broken my nose at first, but it was my sunglasses grating on the deck that I heard as both my sunglasses and glasses squashed into my nose. It turned out to be minor injuries, hurting my pride more than my body.

Timmy called to say he was heading back to the dock, so we made a quick stop at the house where I cleaned my face and Paul stayed to unhook appliances. I drove the Goose back to the dock to pick up Timmy. Timmy and Paul loaded the appliances onto the Goose, while I tried my best to stay out of the way. We tied the mudboat onto the stern and towed it to the marina, went back to the landing, loaded the items onto the flatbed, and then drove to the storage unit 20 miles away. On the way back, we stopped at the marina to pull the mudboat onto its trailer, and then met Erik at the landing.

Figure 3. Loading appliances onto the Goose.

Figure 3. Loading appliances onto the Goose.

Back at dredge site, we unhooked the dredge from its anchors and tied it to the Goose. We raised the spuds and started towing it down to a protected area around the dogleg of our deadend canal. At first, the flat boat was towed behind the dredge, but the dredge kept pulling to one side. Paul got in the flat and we tied it to one side of the dredge, using its motor to help keep the dredge in line while the Goose towed.

Figure 4. The Goose towing the dredge to a protected spot down the dead-end canal.

Figure 4. The Goose towing the dredge to a protected spot down the dead-end canal.

Figure 5. Karen and Erik rode on the dredge to keep lines in order and Paul drove the flat to help keep the dredge oriented down the canal.

Figure 5. Karen and Erik rode on the dredge to keep lines in order and Paul drove the flat to help keep the dredge oriented down the canal.

We had some excitement on the way down the canal, when we stirred up a school of Asian carp. The huge fish came flying out of the water in front of the dredge, and several banged against the dredge and under the grate. We were never quite fast enough to catch this on camera. This just proved how fresh the water in our canals has remained throughout the summer since these are freshwater fish, and we have never seen them down here before.

We made the turn into the shorter section of the dead-end canal and the Goose pulled the dredge close to the bank next to a dense stand of trees. I immediately dropped a spud to hold the dredge in place, and lowered the other one as well. We untied the tow ropes from the dredge. Paul and Erik used the flat boat to tie the left traveling cable to the base of a sturdy tree, and Timmy on the Goose tied a heavy rope to the trees on the other bank to which Paul and Erik attached the right traveling cable. I used the winches to tighten up the cross ties enough to keep the dredge from moving too much, then made sure everything was turned off and secured.

Figure 6. Paul, Erik and Timmy ran lines to tie the dredge on both sides of the canal.

Figure 6. Paul, Erik and Timmy ran lines to tie the dredge on both sides of the canal.

Figure 7. The dredge moored as safely as we could manage in the dead-end canal.

Figure 7. The dredge moored as safely as we could manage in the dead-end canal.

Back at the house, Timmy loaded the lawnmower onto the Goose. He removed all perishables from the refrigerator while Paul disconnected all of his electronics. We emptied the freezer into coolers, and the guys loaded it on the Goose as well. Timmy locked up everything, and we caravaned a line of boats back to the marina – Timmy in the loaded Goose, me in the flat boat, and Paul in Timmy’s personal boat.

Figure 8. The final evacuation load.

Figure 8. The final evacuation load.

At the marina, everything was transferred to the trailer. Paul and Erik went to get Timmy’s boat trailer while Timmy and I took the Goose and flatboat to the boatshed. We walked back around to the vehicles as Paul and Erik were hauling out the little boat.

Figure 9. Unloading at Danny's marina.

Figure 9. Unloading at Danny's marina.

As the sun was going down, we pulled into the storage unit for the last unload – Timmy pulling the flatbed trailer, Paul pulling the little boat, and Erik in his car. Timmy backed the trailer into the storage unit, we ran extension cords to plug the freezer in (still on the trailer) and loaded all the frozen food back into it. He disconnected that trailer and locked the unit, then we transferred the little boat from Paul’s truck to Timmy’s and we all went home. Paul and I made it back home around 10:30 pm. Whew!

Figure 10. The sun was setting as we made it to the storage building for the last load.

Figure 10. The sun was setting as we made it to the storage building for the last load.

Storm Impact

Rainey was extremely fortunate to be on the west side of the storm, with little rain and wind, and water levels lowered instead of rising with the feared storm surge. Timmy was able to return to the property by Thursday afternoon. The headquarters never lost power, and suffered no significant damage. The lowered water level drained the freshwater (3 ppm) out of our canals and replaced it with more saline water (17 ppm) when water levels returned to normal. One canopy cable came loose on the dredge. All items removed in the evacuation were replaced by Labor Day.

Recommendations for Future Evacuation

This was a great drill for future events. We learned a lot about what it takes to evacuate the Rainey Headquarters, and how much time is involved.

Our recommendations for future events are to send out an email as soon as the decision is made to evacuate, make a floor plan for arranging the storage unit, and then have two crews to work the move – one on the water side and one on the land side. The travel time for each crew is within minutes of each other, and as the boat is traveling to load and unload from the camp, a truck and trailer can be traveling to load and unload at the storage unit. A minimum of 5 people would be necessary for the most efficient use of time.

This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, Hurricane Isaac hyperlink.

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