Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Hurricane Gustav LiveBlog, Part 3

Yeah, it seems odd to post a LiveBlog nearly a week after the event happened, but that's what happens when you're blogging on a six-column columnar pad instead of a computer. So with that said, here's Part 3 of my Hurricane Gustav LiveBlog.

Part 3: 01 September 2008, 1605-2200 CDT

1605: Power just went out. :^( No need to fear, as Eric powered up his generator, which puts everything back to normal in the house save the central air conditioning unit. With the current conditions and the build quality of the house (No movement or air seepage at all), we should be quite fine. Now if we could get our power back early this time. (Note: We got power back at 1224 on Tuesday 2 September, 19 hours and 19 minutes later, or if you’re obtuse like me, 1159 minutes.) My times without power for the past couple of major storms was seven days for Rita (2005), seven days for Lili (2002), and twenty days for Andrew (1992), though Andrew was a special case as Andrew decided to drop a tree on my room, destroying everythi
ng I had, and more importantly for what I’m discussing, the electrical panel for the house.

Though Eric just got the generator up and running, I’m taking no chances with my information flow, so I fired up the dynamo-powered radio again
. On the radio, I found KATC simulcasting and Rob Perillo says the 1600 advisory puts Gustav 10 miles to the north of the KATC studios. The worst rainfall seems to be currently in St. Landry parish with an area north of Krotz Springs with eight inches of rain and climbing fast. Winds still in the 60 mph range from the West (270°).

Some strange cell phone number is calling my mom. Despite Eric’s protestations, it isn’t me, since I’m still in the 337 area code down in Franklin! The number is a 985 number (Southeastern Louisiana outside of the New Orleans immediate metro area), so I went to work Google-ing the number and at the end of my free searches,
I found it to be a cell number from the Thibodaux area. No clue who it is. (Edit: We actually decided to call it and found out it’s a friend of the family that actually just moved from Thibodaux to Abbeville. Thankfully God keeps His eye on His own, eh?)

1715: From the “From Your Lips to God’s Ears” Depa
rtment: Eric was complaining how it’s generally useless to call SLEMCO to report power outages since the local office in Kaplan doesn’t answer their phones. Immediately after he said this KATC reports that SLEMCO’s power outage report hotline is down. Winds seem to be beginning to abate slightly, as well as change directions. The wind is about 55 mph from the west-southwest (248ish°), and yes, it’s still raining.

First local fatality to pass along. A 27 year-old man is killed when a tree fell on his house. Accordin
g to KATC’s on-site reporter, the tree was “ten feet wide” and fell directly where the man was sitting, killing him instantly. His home seems to be off the Evangeline Thruway near the I-10/I-49 interchange near Sts. Leo-Seton School.

Levee breach! According to a simulcast on KATC of New Orleans’ WGNO TV 26, the Plaquemines Parish-owned Braithwaite levee has had a partial breach. The footage shows crews working to stop the leak with sandbags by the backhoe-full.

1735: Rob Perillo estimates that 14+ inches of rain has fallen in an area north of Port Barre and east of Washington in St. Landry parish, with the total only to climb from there. Other interesting facts about Gustav, other than the hurricane taking its name from one of my favourite monarchs of all time: Gustav Adolf II (Better known by his Latinized name, Gustavus Adolphus) of Sweden; The Lion of the North and smasher of Spanish Tercios across Central Europe during the Thirty Years War! *ahem* Sorry about the History Rampage™ there.

Back to interesting facts about Gustav, the hurricane: Zero tornadoes have been spawned by the core of the storm, which is somewhat rare for a storm of its strength this far inland. As far as the rest of the storm is concerned, only a couple of possible F-0s (on the Enhanced Fujita scale) in extreme eastern Louisiana seem to have been spawned. Rob also notes what I pointed out to everyone earlier that Gustav seems to be moving now in more of a north-northwest (340ish°) direction as opposed to the northwest direction listed in the last
advisory. Winds now definitely west-southwest (248ish°) in direction, and the wind speed seems to be in the 40-45 mph range. It’s still raining, but not as intensely as it had been.

1800: Supper! Chilidogs and/or BBQ beef sandwiches are on the menu. Of course, I’d have nothing less than the finest dining to hear Governor Jindal give a briefing on the status of the state as the storm begins the long process of winding itself down. Kudos as usual to the Jindalnator for his professionalism (A tiny complaint on my part would be that he needs to sound a little more prepared for these briefings. But I understand the sheer amount of data he has to be aware of and pass along, but that’ll come from experience) as well as showing the world how a hurricane should be handled, unlike my duck blind mate on more than once occasion Kathleen Blanco. Jindal reports Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes are the hardest hit areas, and begins to go through a laundry list of utility and infrastructure sites hit.

The most unique damage report? The ferry at White Castle that crosses the Mississippi River was sunk. The naval historian side of me conjured up an image like the photos seen in the aftermath of the invasion of Norway by Germany in 1940 for some reason: No clue why it came to my mind, but chances are it wasn’t that dramatic, or involved as much flying lead.

1815: Louisiana State Police are reporting on KATC as well as the radio scanner they are having a devil of a time dealing with people leaving their houses and driving around to survey the damage. I really can’t blame these people, despite the complete stupidity involved in driving around areas with tree limbs and live power lines lying about in the streets. After all, I’m dying to escape this house after putting up with these people and the same four tapes of file footage the TV stations have been showing for the past eleven hours!

1900: The winds continue to blow, now from the southwest (225ish°) at around 30 mph, but the rain seems almost done. I guess the storm is officially over. I mean, KATC has changed its intro pieces from GUSTAV: THE STORM to GUSTAV: THE RECOVERY. Apparently, trees are down everywhere… except in our neck of the woods (Bad pun.). Why you ask? Because we have no trees, of course!

1930: Rob Perillo points out how Acadiana has dodged yet another bullet in terms of a major hurricane blowing through the area with Gustav. According to KATC Weather Blog posts by Rob Perillo; National Weather Service discussions; and my two cents (most important of them all), Acadiana’s Worst Case Scenario would have been what would have happened had Hurricane Lili made landfall as a Category 4 storm like it was expected to back in October 2002. Lili was forecasted to lumber ashore with 140 mph winds near Pecan Island in Vermilion Parish. This would have put the most populated areas of Acadiana square in the northeastern quadrant of the storm as it made landfall, exposing them to the worst of the winds. In addition, a landing in Pecan Island would have essentially tossed all of the water in Vermilion Bay onshore. Imagine the flooding in Erath and Delcambre in Youngsville or downtown New Iberia under ten feet of water. And for the folks most interested in this blog, all of St. Mary Parish would have been under at least four feet of water save Morgan City, whose sea wall would have been about the only thing able to save it.
Speaking of St. Mary Parish, everything seems too quiet for our own good on the news front. The only news I was able to gather on either the TV or the radio scanner is that the parish has zero electrical service. That little news coming out can’t be good.

2020: Kari Hall takes over for a bleary-eyed Rob Perillo and in Kari’s easygoing style points out the obvious: conditions are beginning to improve from south to north. KATC interviews St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, who makes sure to tell everyone his parish is still taking a pounding. He also extended the parish-wide curfew until daylight tomorrow due to the conditions.

2030: Five Six Seven Public Service Announcements in a row on KATC during a commercial break. What, no sleazy lawyers wanted to pony up the cash to fill in the airtime? Oh wait an election commercial. I guess it took a sleazy politician to break the monotony instead.

2035: It’s been over twelve hours on this hurricane blog, and since things seems to be winding down on this end. But first, an important turn of events! A press conference starring Ray Nagin! Way to stay classy Ray by starting your press conference by making a snide remark about Gustav raining on the Republican National Convention. And you wonder why people think about you the way they do outside of Orleans Parish?

2045: Finally! Concrete news from St. Mary Parish! Too bad (for me) it’s about Morgan City. According to news reports Morgan City got hammered pretty hard, and has zero utility service, as a tornado (Guys, you do realize that hurricane with 100 mph winds at the eye wall is essentially a giant F-1 tornado, right?) damaging the town’s water and sewer plants. As a result, the city won’t be open for a while. That isn’t the kind of news anyone, much less my Instructional Facilitator will want to hear. I hate to be selfish and paraphrase Darth Vader at the same time, but I find the lack of news regarding Franklin disturbing. One last thing: Winds are down to 25 mph and steady from the southwest (225ish°).

2120: Finally! An end to the local Gustav coverage! Crap, it’s been replaced with national coverage of Gustav. Isn’t there a football game on this evening or something?

2200: Last blog of the day, so here we go: The 2200 advisory from the National Weather Service was just released. It downgraded Gustav to a Tropical Storm with 60 mph sustained winds with the centre southeast of Alexandria. I felt like concluding this blog post with a quick and dirty summary of the storm here at Carla and Eric’s house northeast of Gueydan, but I can’t be buggered to do so as the air mattress is calling my name. If I can quickly put Gustav in context of other hurricanes I’ve ridden out down here in South Louisiana, it wasn’t as bad as Rita back in 2005 or Andrew in 1992 (At least weather- wise. Who knows about the condition of my house?), but seems initially on par with Lili in 2002 and Danny and Juan in 1985, but hopefully without the long power outages those three storms inflicted on us.

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