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Entries in Hurricane Isaac (6)

Wednesday
Sep052012

Mystery of Shipwreck Uncovered by Hurricane Isaac Solved

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Isaac has uncovered the remains of an old sailing ship on an Alabama beach, prompting questions about when the ship wrecked and where it came from.

The remains of the large wooden ship have been seen before: The wreckage is normally covered by sand, but the beach erosion caused by big storms has periodically given glimpses of what is left of the ship's hull.

The wreckage was first exposed after Hurricane Camille in 1969, then again in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan, and again in 2008 after Hurricane Ike.

But Isaac unearthed more of the ship than has been seen before, bringing droves of people out to see the bit of historical mystery on the shore.

Local historians say there really is no mystery about the ship's origins. According to Mike Bailey, historian with the Fort Morgan, Ala., Historical Society, the ship is the Rachel, a schooner built in Pascagoula, Miss., during World War I.  At that time, the government was using most steam ships for the war effort, but the region still needed trade ships, so the Rachel was built to carry cargo in the gulf.

The Rachel was built at the De Angelo Shipyard in Moss Point, Miss., for the purpose of carrying lumber.  When she was completed in 1918, she was the largest ship built in the yard at more than 150 feet long with three masts.  However, with the conclusion of WWI, she wasn't in high demand, sitting unused for several years, Bailey told ABC News.

In 1923, the ship was carrying a small amount of cargo and a crew of about eight men on her first voyage, when she ran into a damaging storm.

"The crew tried to save her by dropping an anchor, but she ran aground and was destroyed," Bailey told ABC News. "What little cargo she was carrying was salvaged, and the ship was burned."

Bailey said the real mystery is what the ship was carrying.  The Rachel was built as a lumber schooner, but ran aground during the Prohibition years when alcohol was illegal.

"The legend is that she was carrying illegal liquor," Bailey told ABC. "That's unconfirmed -- and nobody who might know what cargo she was carrying seems to want to say -- so that's the mystery."

Despite rumors that the ship pre-dates the Civil War, Bailey said he's sure it's the World War I-era Rachel.

"It's her.  We have the pictures, the stories from families who have been in the area for 150 years whose parents or grandparents remember the wreck," Bailey said.  "We have news reports from the time of the wreck, the blueprints -- it's the Rachel."

The ship is largely on private land, and there aren't any plans to attempt to move the ship, because such an undertaking would be incredibly expensive, according to the Alabama Historical Society.

So for now, the ship is a bit of history that washes ashore every few years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Hurricane Isaac's Eye Wall Expected to Barrel 'Right Over' Louisiana Sinkhole

Assumption Parish Police Jury(PARISH, La.) -- The eye wall of Hurricane Isaac is expected to barrel "right over" Assumption Parish, La., Wednesday -- the home of a massive sinkhole that has raised fears of expansion and possible explosions from nearby gas-filled caverns.

The eye wall of a hurricane is a band of clouds just outside of the eye, or center, of a hurricane, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The most intense winds and rain happen near the eye wall, making it the most dangerous part of a hurricane.

"The latest update puts the track of Hurricane Isaac right over Assumption Parish," police wrote in a statement.

The area is expecting sustained winds of 60 to 70 mph with gusts at 85 mph, according to the Assumption Parish Police Jury. Seven inches of rainfall are expected.

The 400-foot-deep hole measures about 526 feet from northeast to southwest and 640 feet from northwest to southeast. It is in Assumption Parish, about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

On Aug. 16, the sinkhole swallowed the boat of two cleanup workers, who had to be rescued from the hole.

Greg Hancock, a professor of geology at the College of William and Mary, said it's hard to predict how the hurricane could affect the sinkhole.

"The fact that we're going to get more rain doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a great collapse of the sinkhole," Hancock told ABCNews.com, but he also said it was possible that "getting additional water into the sidewalls of this sinkhole could lead to a collapse in the sidewalls."

Hancock likened the situation to building a sandcastle on the beach.

"The last thing we want is for the sand to be really wet," he said. "The more water gets added to the sand, the less stable it is."

"There's no reason why this sinkhole shouldn't continue to grow, but I don't know if it'll have anything to do with how much rain they get," Hancock said. "I'd want to keep an eye on it, but I don't think there's a reason to think that there's going to be significant growth to this associated with the hurricane."

A mandatory evacuation of all of Assumption Parish was issued on Tuesday night. Schools are closed Wednesday and Thursday, a midnight curfew is in effect and the sale of alcohol has been banned, according to officials.

A "shelter of last resort" was opened at a middle school, but officials warned, "All evacuees should bring all necessary items such as sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, toiletries, personal hygiene items, medicines, food, water, and personal identification. No cots will be provided."

The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.

While officials are not certain what caused the massive sinkhole, they believe it may have been related to a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole, which appeared in early August.

Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine drill a well to investigate the salt cavern as soon as possible, obtain samples from the cavern and provide daily reports on the findings.

The sinkhole is on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.

"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABCNews.com. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."

The exploratory rig is being assembled but parts of it are still being shipped. It could take 40 days for the actual drilling to begin, even with an expedited process, Torres said.

In the meantime, officials and residents are left to worry about the possibility of an explosion.

All of the neighboring natural gas pipelines that were of concern last week have been depressurized and emptied, but the nearby caverns are still causing concern.

One cavern that contains 940,000 gallons of butane is of particular concern, Torres said. It's about 2,000 feet from the sinkhole.

Authorities are concerned about the massive explosion that could result from the butane's release to the surface if the sinkhole were to expand far enough to reach it.

There was bubbling in the water and the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past. This would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality said water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel fuel on its surface, but readings have not detected any dangerous levels of radiation.

"It's not going to get fixed tomorrow," Torres said. "We urge the residents to leave to protect themselves. We have no idea how far this sinkhole will expand or in what direction. We have no clue."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Hurricane Isaac Batters Gulf Coast With Rain, Winds

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS) -- Hurricane Isaac pounded the Gulf Coast Wednesday, overtopping a levee southeast of New Orleans, knocking down trees and cutting power to more than 400,000 homes.

There were no reports of injuries but dozens of residents of Plaquemines Parish, La., were stranded atop a levee, while there were multiple reports of people trapped in attics by rising waters. Thus far, fewer people were evacuated than during Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans seven years ago today.

But the Category 1 slow-moving storm is expected to stay over the region all day with its drenching rains and high winds. As of 9 a.m. the storm's center was about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 9 a.m., 30 to 40 vehicles were stranded atop the levee in Plaquemines waiting for a ferry, with water all around, according to a contractor who works for the parish. That ferry is the only way off that flooded spit of land. A source told ABC News that nearly the entirety of the area has been flooded, and winds still howling at 35-40 mph, prevented a ferry from approaching.

It is estimated that it will be six to eight hours before it's safe for the ferry to motor out to the stranded people, who were without power but do have cell phone service.

Thousands who live in the area are still stuck in their homes or attics, and rescuers are out in boats helping those who need it most.

"I've got a four-by-four hole in my roof, several pieces in the front yard, the back wall of my house moved a couple of feet, and with each gust of wind, it's like you're breathing in and out," William Harold "Billy" Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, told Good Morning America.

Nungesser confirmed that a levee in Plaquemines Parish was overtopped with water, causing flooding. So far there were no reports that the $14 billion of levees and pumps put up around New Orleans after Katrina have been breached, but officials have not yet fully assessed the situation.

"The water came up so quickly and overtopped the levees from Breakaway to White Ditch on the east back of the north end of the parish. It's an area that we called for a mandatory evacuation," he said.

At daylight, parish officials were out examining the damage, according to James Madere, a parish geographic information system analyst. The Plaquemines Parish Public Information Office tells ABC News that rescue operations will not start until it is safe, possibly as late as 1 p.m. ET.

In New Orleans, power lines were down, snaking and sparking across city streets after transformers exploded across the city Tuesday night.

The city saw handfuls of arrests early as looters took advantage of the chaos, sheriffs and police and National Guard were all out in force. The hurricane promised to lend even more solemnity to commemoration ceremonies Wednesday for Katrina's 1,800 dead in Louisiana and Mississippi, including the tolling of the bells at St. Louis Cathedral overlooking New Orleans' Jackson Square. This storm is far less powerful at Category 1 than Katrina, which caused at least $81 billion in damage and was rated as the most powerful Category 5 storm.

As of 9 a.m., Isaac was still packing winds of 80 mph. Isaac is moving at near 6 mph and has already dropped more than six inches of rain on New Orleans. Hurricane force winds extend 60 miles from the center of the storm.

The hurricane had moved back into the Gulf of Mexico after making its initial landfall Tuesday evening. Isaac's center remained over water where it was almost stationary before making landfall again this morning.

The 200-mile wide hurricane is expected to gradually weaken and move inland in a northwestward motion, dumping seven to 14 inches of rain across Louisiana, with some places receiving up to 20 inches, according to forecasters.

The greatest concern is an expected storm surge of between six and 12 feet off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, four to eight feet along the Alabama coast and three to six feet on the Florida Panhandle, according to the Hurricane Center located in Miami.

A storm surge of 11 feet was reported at Shell Beach, La., late Tuesday while a surge of 6.7 feet was reported in Waveland, Miss., according to the Hurricane Center.

The highest wind gust was recorded at 113 miles an hour overnight in Belle Chasse, Plaquemines Parish, La.

Thursday night into Saturday, Isaac will move into the Mississippi Valley and eventually into Illinois and Indiana with possibly six inches of rain for the drought-stricken Midwest.

Isolated tornadoes are possible along the central Gulf Coast region and part of the lower Mississippi River Valley through Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Entergy New Orleans has listed more than 400,000 homes and businesses without power as of 5:30 a.m., according to their website. The Red Cross reported 18,000 people in 70 shelters across five states Wednesday morning.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Isaac Makes Second Landfall; Levee Overtopped in Southeast Louisiana

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS) -- The center of Hurricane Isaac made a second landfall over Port Fourchon, La., early Wednesday, overtopping a levee southeast of New Orleans and leaving thousands in the dark.

Emergency management officials in Plaquemines Parish reported "overtopping of a levee from Braithwaite to White Ditch," according to the National Weather Service.  "This will result in significant deep flooding in this area."

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Isaac is still packing winds of 80 mph and the eye of the storm is about 50 miles south-southwest of New Orleans.  The storm is moving at just 6 mph and has already dropped more than six inches of rain on New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  

The hurricane had moved back into the Gulf of Mexico after making its initial landfall Tuesday evening.  Isaac's center remained over water where it was almost stationary before making landfall again Wednesday morning.

Entergy New Orleans listed more than 400,000 homes and businesses without power as of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to their website.  The Red Cross, meanwhile, reported 18,000 people in 70 shelters across five states Wednesday morning.

Hurricane Isaac is expected to gradually weaken and move inland, dumping seven to 14 inches of rain across Louisiana, with some places receiving up to 20 inches, according to forecasters.

The greatest concern is an expected storm surge of between six and 12 feet off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, four to eight feet along the Alabama coast and three to six feet on the Florida Panhandle, according to the Hurricane Center located in Miami.

A storm surge of 11 feet was reported at Shell Beach, La., late Tuesday, while a surge of 6.7 feet was reported in Waveland, Miss., according to the Hurricane Center.

Isolated tornadoes are possible along the central Gulf Coast region and part of the lower Mississippi River Valley through Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thursday night into Saturday, Isaac will move into the Mississippi Valley and eventually into Illinois and Indiana, bringing possibly six inches of rain to the drought stricken Midwest.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Hurricane Isaac 2012: Storm Makes Landfall in Louisiana

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday evening in southeastern Louisiana, with winds of 80 mph that spread out over an area 200 miles wide.

It was a Category 1 hurricane as it came ashore, and the National Hurricane Center warned of "strong winds and a dangerous storm surge occurring along the northern Gulf Coast."

The storm threatened to drop more than a foot of rain -- up to 20 inches in some areas -- from Biloxi, Miss., to New Orleans. The hurricane center said a storm surge -- the bulge of water that a storm pushes ahead of itself -- of 8.8 feet had been measured at Shell Beach, La.

Isaac, a massive and slow-moving storm, reached the coastline just a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's path is similar to Katrina's and the anniversary has created "a high level of anxiety."

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," Landrieu said. He urged people to avoid streets likely to flood.

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Usually boisterous New Orleans was a ghost town as tourists and locals heeded warnings and either left town or hunkered down in boarded-up buildings.

Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it wasn't so much Isaac's strength as the speed at which it was moving that should concern the people living in its path.

"The models show [Isaac's] forward speed slowing down, and that's not good," Knabb said. "When a large system moves slowly, that means a lot of rainfall."

President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday morning, saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been on the ground for more than a week working with officials in areas that could be affected.

"I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials, and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate," Obama said. "We're dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area."

"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," he added.

In advance of the storm, Louisiana set up shelters and stockpiled more than a million packaged meals, 1.4 million bottles of water and 17,000 tarps.

Since the levees failed in Katrina seven years ago, more than $14 billion has been spent on the 133 miles of floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans. While officials say the city is more prepared now than it was in 2005, it's still taking no chances when it comes to evacuations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Isaac Gains Hurricane Strength, Bears Down on Gulf Coast

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW YORK) -- Forecasters Tuesday upgraded Tropical Storm Isaac to a Category 1 hurricane just hours before it's expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast, while warning that the biggest threat will be the rainfall and storm surge, not the wind.

Isaac, a massive and slow-moving storm, will make landfall as early as Tuesday night, a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's path is similar to Katrina's and the anniversary has left much of the Gulf Coast on "a high level of anxiety."

Winds are now 75 miles per hour and are expected to rise to at least 80 mph when Isaac makes landfall. Forecasters say the big threat will be the storm surge around New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., where water might rise six to nine feet. The hurricane is forecasted to hover over the Gulf Coast and could punish coastal areas with up to 20 inches of rain.

"The models show [Isaac's] forward speed slowing down, and that's not good, when a large system moves slowly, that means a lot of rainfall," Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told Good Morning America today.

As of 11:20 a.m. ET, the center of the hurricane was 80 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest at 10 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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