I thought I'd close this out by sharing some paragraphs from my draft article in the New Orleans Power Squadron newsletter. It will be published in October.
We are now out of the peak hurricane season months of August and September. We had our Raft Up at the Madisonville Wall August 24, 25, & 26. We broke up a little earlier than we normally would have as the news of Tropical Storm Isaac circulated. Everyone hurried home to prepare for what we believed to be a near or direct hit from a soon to be Hurricane Isaac. This storm was threatening us in a manner eerily similar to Hurricane Katrina and with a projected landfall on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was a coincidence too obvious to ignore.
Isaac proved to be a much bigger problem than most of us anticipated from a Category 1 storm. Isaac was a very large storm and pushed an enormous amount of water around. You should note that the classification of a hurricane is solely based on the wind speed. Storm surge is not part of the classification criterion. In the Seamanship class we are instructed that storm surge is determined by wind speed, the time duration the storm has to act on the sea water, and the amount of surface area affected. Isaac was a large storm and affected a large amount of sea area and it became an extremely slow moving storm as it approached land. A storm’s history is also a factor. In the case of Hurricane Katrina; it crossed the entire Gulf of Mexico as a Cat. 5 storm, even though it came ashore as a Cat. 3. Thus, it continued to push the large storm surge expected from a Cat. 5 hurricane. Our particular geography is also a factor. The counter-clockwise rotation of a hurricane approaching southeast Louisiana and/or the Mississippi Sound tends to push water from the Gulf of Mexico into Lake Pontchartrain. The storm surge has no means to escape, so water continues to pile up for as long as the wind is present. Isaac did not become a Cat. 1 hurricane until just before landfall. For all practical purposes, Isaac had the storm surge of a Tropical Storm and yet, it was extremely damaging. This proves you can’t ever be complacent with these storms and you have to consider the storm surge potential separate from the classification.
Ironically, I had a prior discussion with a friend that is a long term live-aboard cruiser about the movie “The Perfect Storm.” This person thought it was ridiculous that they added a musical sound track during the storm sequence for the dramatic effect. They could just have used the howling sound of the wind. It is more realistic and just as dramatic. I chose to ride out Hurricane Isaac aboard my boat to tend lines as the storm surge increased. I recorded wind gusts on my wind instruments in the low 70s mph range. I can now state, with authority, that high winds literally scream into your ears. I agree with this person’s critique of the movie.
I’m pleased to report that the experience aboard my boat during Isaac was uneventful, and just plain boring. The only problem was a bit of sleep deprivation caused by the noise and checking dock lines every couple of hours. And a bit of cabin fever. The cabin fever was complicated by a craving for Oreo cookies and ice cream. I was unable to get off the boat until the Saturday after due to the high water level. The water was still almost waist deep on Saturday morning.
I had a second ironic moment aboard my boat during the height of Hurricane Isaac. I was working on this newsletter. And, as I sometimes do, I look at previous newsletters from the same month of previous years. I happened to read the October 2008 newsletter article written by Past Commander Chris Lawler about hurricane preparations. In that article Chris implied you would be crazy to ride out a hurricane aboard a boat. I guess that explains a lot . . .
I’m happy to report that none of our members lost their life or that of a loved one. And I am not aware of any member that lost their homes or boats as a result of this storm. I certainly hope this is an accurate statement. Unfortunately, our trailer had some minor flooding. This has already impacted our training schedule and its full impact is yet to be determined. We lost some educational material and other stuff that was stored in the trailer. Fortunately, this appears to be a relatively minor loss.
And in closing, I want to say something about safety. Include assistance into your hurricane planning. Stripping sails off a medium to large sailboat is hard exhausting work especially if you are middle aged, over weight and out of shape. I know I’m not the only person this description applies to. Removing canvas enclosures and dinghies, etc. off a power boat can be just as tough. I was fortunate this year that Bill Edwards chose to seek safe harbor in my marina. Bill assisted me in both stripping my sails before Isaac and replacing them after. I certainly appreciate his enormous effort. Hurricane preps are done under great urgency and under “must get it done at all costs” circumstances. This is a situation rich with the potential for injury. One guy in my marina broke his foot attempting to push a boat off of the pier and the very same person stepped back and fell off the pier. Somehow he struck a nail and punctured an artery in his leg. This got infected requiring surgery to clean out the infection. So again, include safety in your hurricane preps. Partner up with a friend and fellow boater. Help him with his boat in exchange for assistance with yours. Make this agreement in advance. Don’t be the story we are going to talk about after the storm.
S.V. Far Horizons
"I am what I am, and that's all that I am" Popeye the Sailorman