Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Despite 2010 tragedy, BP advances deepwater drilling in the Gulf

It's never in the news anymore. It was the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, but these days it's rarely even a footnote on the TV news or online.
Anderson Cooper recently remarked on Late Night with Seth Meyers that "it's not like the Obama administration was the most welcoming to the media" and that
President Obama hadn't agreed to an interview with him after the BP oil spill. Cooper had been down in the Gulf, as he had following Katrina. His reporting has historically been conscientious and thorough, yet even Cooper is beholden to whatever constraints CNN producers place on him.
This reporter/blogger spoke at a symposium at the University of Georgia in early 2011, and one of the attendees asked whether the event would be of interest down the road. A fellow journalist remarked that that was a good question.
But whether you, the reader, care or not; whether this issue is as flashy and newsworthy as it once was or not; the fact remains that BP is not only very much still in business, but at work in the Gulf.
Here is the activity around Louisiana waters:
1) Thunder Horse South Expansion: Started Dec. 2016. The company says on its website that, "The Thunder Horse platform is located around 150 miles southeast of New Orleans in over 6,000 feet of water. The South Expansion Project comprises a new subsea drill centre located two miles from the Thunder Horse platform. Three new wells and an existing fourth well are expected to tie-into the new drill centre. Topsides scope is minimal as a result of maximising use of existing subsea infrastructure." The deepwater oil project partner is ExxonMobil at 25 percent, with BP owning 75 percent of the interest. It is currently under construction.
2) Thunder Horse Water Injection: "The Thunder Horse platform is located around 150 miles southeast of New Orleans in over 6,000 feet of water. The water injection project is expected to develop an additional 65 million barrels of oil equivalent (gross). The project scope comprises refurbishment and replacement of existing topsides and subsea equipment, procurement and installation of new equipment and the drilling and completion of two water injection wells. Water will be injected from the two new wells into the reservoir to increase pressure and enhance production." The project is jointly run by Exxon, also at 25 percent. It was begun in May of last year.
3) Finally, Mad Dog Phase II "includes a new semi-submersible floating production platform with the capacity to produce up to 140,000 gross barrels of crude oil per day from 14 production wells. The new platform will be moored approximately six miles southwest of the existing Mad Dog platform, which is located in 4,500 feet of water about 190 miles south of New Orleans." It's jointly owned by BP at 60.5 percent along with BHP Billiton (23.9 percent) and Chevron (15.6 percent.)
The April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion resulted in an 87-day oil "spill" after killing 12 rig workers off the coast of Louisiana. Following that, the last presidential administration authorized the copious use of toxic dispersants, a.k.a. Corexit, to "cover up" the mess. An environmental worker familiar with the situation said it was the best solution at the time because it kept oil from spilling further up into the marsh and wetlands.
All told, about 200 million gallons of oil erupted into the waters off Louisiana, sickening and killing marine life and wildlife across the five Gulf states. Further, thousands of residents in the most affected areas such as Pass Christian, Mississippi; Orange Beach, Alabama; and Grand Isle, Louisiana reported sores, breathing difficulties, kidney problems, and weight loss.
>Photo: "A ship floats amongst a sea of spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon oilspill disaster." Wikimedia Commons Images.
June 16, 2010; Flickr: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill - Gulf of Mexico; Author: kris krüg

Thursday, February 23, 2017

'Patti Pelican and The Gulf Oil Spill' a hopeful, kid-friendly look at tragedy

The following article was originally published by Laurie Wiegler on Examiner.com, June 22, 2016. It has been lightly edited.
When Lynda Wurster Deniger saw the horrific sight April 20, 2010 coming from the TV set, she was devastated. "I would just sit there and bawl," she says of that day and the days that followed, the 87 days it took to cap the Macondo well off the southern coast of Louisiana.
But as a writer and former newspaper reporter, she wanted to turn her anguish into something that could help people. Her popular children's book, Salty Seas & His Heroic Friends, would prove the ideal launching-off point for the book she would write, buttressed again by the beautiful illustrations from Paulette Ferguson.
The children's book with the character of Captain Charley and friends Patti Pelican, Dottie Dolphin and Sammy Seagull introduced shrimping at sea, but it would be the second book, inspired by tragedy, that would be the writer's real challenge. And it was one she and her illustrator pulled off beautifully.
"I had Captain Charlie and Salty actually being involved in the boom and trying to help with the cleanup," Deniger says.
She began traveling around to Louisiana schools and sharing the story with school kids - not just reading to them, but "entertaining," she says. The sixtysomething light sees it as her mission to make sure the kids of today don't forget or in the case of the really young ones, miss learning about the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
"I don't mention BP in the book," she says, but acknowledges that the blown-up well on the cover is a pretty loud clue. She brings it up because someone said it'd be nice if BP could've helped in some way. Buying the books for the kids? Deniger sells them at the schools very inexpensively, and they come with a recording of her reading the book.
Asked if it was tough to put a positive spin on a tragic tale, she is not defensive. She explains that she went out to a rescue center to see how the brown pelicans were being washed. The oil-soaked birds' images that flooded the television airwaves for weeks were something else altogether up close.
"I called a man at the rescue center in Venice (La.) and asked if he'd be open to my coming down there," she says. "He said sure. I toured the facility, and took pictures, many of which would be used to make the illustrations (by Ferguson)."
The writer says she's not touring as much now, that interest is waning. People forget and move on, even as another oil spill, approximately 88,000 gallons from Shell Oil out on Timbalier Island, makes news. That gusher was snuffed quickly, hardly made national news, and certainly didn't inspire a book.
But the fact is: the state's national bird, the beloved brown pelican, is endangered. Thousands and thousands perished, and before they did so, suffered with oil-coated bodies. What Deniger is doing could be described as heroic, but she's not one to boast.
No, her mission is to make the kids understand.
"I take a bottle of water and dirty oil I got from my mechanic, and mix it together to show the kids," she says. I ask, 'What do you think is gonna happen? And they go 'Wow!', because oil and water don't mix."
To buy the book, please visit Amazon or check with your local booksellers.
Cover art: Used with permission. Illustrator: Paulette Ferguson

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Scott Pruitt sworn in as EPA Administrator

On Friday Feb. 17, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed and sworn in as the 14th administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The news comes as a jolt to environmentalists and citizens concerned about his record of fighting the very agency he will be tasked with overseeing.
Back in December, the National Audubon Society along with other environmental groups responded negatively to the nod. NAS CEO and president David Yarnold said at the time:
“Scott Pruitt’s nomination as the anti-EPA Administrator causes us deep concern. The Environmental Protection Agency's work has always been based on science, but Pruitt is a climate change denier who has worked to dismantle well-grounded protections for clean air and clean water. Those protections have benefited birds and kids for decades and the next administration’s EPA needs to base its work on scientific consensus, something Pruitt hasn't shown a willingness to do. We urge the Senate to hold an EPA administrator to those basic standards."
The EPA issued a press release, which says in part:
"Administrator Pruitt believes promoting and protecting a strong and healthy environment is one of the lifeblood priorities of the government, and EPA is a vital part of that mission.
Pruitt became a national leader through a career of advocating to keep power in the hands of hardworking Americans. He has a proven record of working with industry, farmers, ranchers, landowners, small business owners and others to protect our natural resources.
As a dedicated civil servant, Pruitt created policies that serve the people. He strongly believes environmental law, policy, and progress are all based on cooperation among the states, cooperation between the states and EPA, and cooperation between regulators and the public.
As Administrator, Mr. Pruitt will lead EPA in a way that our future generations inherit a better and healthier environment while advancing America’s economic interests. He is committed to working with the thousands of dedicated public servants at EPA who have devoted their careers to helping realize this shared vision, while faithfully administering environmental laws.
Most recently, Administrator Pruitt served as the Attorney General for Oklahoma. He worked with his Democratic counterpart in Arkansas to reach agreement to study the water quality of the Illinois River that crosses between the two states and has been enjoyed by generations of Oklahomans and Arkansans. The Statement of Joint Principles provided for a best science study using EPA-approved methods, with both states agreeing, for the first time, to be bound
by the outcome.
During his tenure as Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Mr. Pruitt led an historic water rights settlement between the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations that preserved the ecosystems of scenic lakes and rivers on native lands. The agreement, which required Congressional approval, was signed into law on December 2016.
The Law provides a framework that fosters intergovernmental collaboration on significant water resource concerns while protecting existing water rights and affirming the State’s role in water rights permitting and administration. Water settlement cases can be lengthy, costly, divisive and disruptive, however under Pruitt’s forward thinking leadership the process was hailed by all parties as one of commitment, hard work, perseverance and cooperation.
As Attorney General for Oklahoma, he also led the State’s legal challenges against property rights intrusion while protecting Oklahoma’s natural resources and environment."
In response to the announcement, an environmental attorney, James Rubin of Dorsey & Whitney, said:
"After a bruising confirmation fight, former Oklahoma Attorney Scott Pruitt will be sworn in as EPA’s latest administrator today. Everyone will be watching closely, including industry, environmental groups and EPA employees themselves, as Pruitt pivots from strong critic of EPA regulatory efforts in the Obama Administration to the head of a large agency tasked by multiple statues with protecting water and air quality, chemical and waste management and a myriad of other public health matters. It is not yet clear what his chief goals and initiatives may be, but change is certainly possible on the scope of climate and other energy-related regulation, wetland jurisdiction, and potentially even staffing sizes."
Before going into private practice, Mr. Rubin served for 15 years in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
To see Administrator Pruitt’s biography, visit: https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-administrator Photo: Scott Pruitt, at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2015, by Gage Skidmore, Peoria, AZ, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39289810

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Louisiana's coastal communities an ongoing emergency according to coastal summit leaders

Urging citizens, government, businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to recognize a continuous storm destroying Louisiana's coast, King Milling, chair of America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF), opened a summit on the national significance of Louisiana's coastal master plan today. Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) & AWF hosted the Summit on the National Significance of Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan. The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is a governmental authority created by the Louisiana Legislature following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
AWF shared in a press release tonight that Milling said today: "The lower Mississippi will be threatened by future storms that will materially impact international trade and commerce, which has been the cornerstone of wealth and community vitality from Arkansas to Minnesota. These conditions constitute the very definition of emergency."
The summit, held at Louisiana State University, followed two leadership roundtables convened by AWF and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) held this past autumn where topics surrounding Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan and its funding were discussed. "If we do not pursue the mandates in the plan and continue the implementation of the planning process, the result will be a catastrophe, not just for Louisiana but for much of the nation as well. Without that effort, towns and communities across the delta are at risk, and close to two-million people will be uprooted," Milling said.
The summit drew panels of coastal leaders who have been advocating for wetlands restoration for more than a decade. Governor John Bel Edwards told the assembly that securing passage by the legislature of the 2017 Master Plan was essential. "I want you to own this plan, I need you to help me build this plan," Governor Edwards said, "This is not just CPRA's plan or my plan. This is Louisiana's plan - the best set of projects and programs to build land and reduce the risk of storm surge flooding to protect and secure our state, our citizens, and our resources. We know this plan does not do everything for everyone but does accept the reality that we don't have unlimited dollars to do what we need to do. This plan does identify the best projects that can make the biggest impact."
A review of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan by CPRA chief of planning, Bren Haase, led to discussions as to why the plan was of national significance, how Louisiana has become a bellwether for discovering restoration solutions as coastal states face sea level rise, and what can be done now before Louisiana's loss of coastal land becomes irreversible.
Former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu said, "Efforts are underway in Congress to expand the use of offshore royalties for both Gulf restoration and other environmental issues nationwide."
A media panel of journalists including Mark Schleifstein of NOLA.com,f Bob Marshall of The Lens, John Snell of Fox8 New Orleans and former Advocate reporter Amy Wold discussed covering news coming out of the new master plan. "Sea level rise is the big story," said Wold, who is now employed by The Water Institute of the Gulf. "The non-structural aspects - elevation of homes and relocation of people will be the news in the next decade. People who live in places they thought were not a risk, are now finding they are."
During discussion of the rationale for funding America's coasts, Adam Davis, of Ecosystem Investment Partners, said, "The notion of performance-based contracting is for the private contractor to take on the risk. He gets paid only after completing the work to government standards and this will be a viable practice for years into the future. The main role of the private sector is to deliver restoration effectively." He added, "It is possible for the private sector to triple the amount of acreage called for in the master plan. We must strive to accelerate the rate of restoration."
The 2017 Coastal Master Plan goes before the Louisiana legislature this April for approval. It is mandated by law to be revised every five years to take into consideration the dynamics of the coast and new science and technology.
This Summit was held in cooperation with National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority and was supported by: Entergy, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Ducks Unlimited, and Louisiana Sea Grant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images. Northshore Near Pontchatoula flooding aftermath of Isaac.jpg (category Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana); Southeastern Louisiana; aerial view near Pontchatoula, Tangipahoa Parish, after Hurricane Isaac. Photos by Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Summit on the significance of Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan tomorrow

Tomorrow at Louisiana State University's Lod Cooke Alumni Center in Baton Rouge, La., Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) & America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF) are hosting a Summit on the National Significance of Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan.
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is a governmental authority created by the Louisiana Legislature following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Tomorrow's day-long event follows two leadership forums convened in October last year to address how to make the state's master plan work. During the summit, "coastal leaders will take stock of goals set in motion 15 years ago" and that, CPRA continues in its press release, "provided the framework and model for comprehensive large-scale restoration."
Coastal stakeholders from the private and public sectors will join scientists, coastal experts and state coastal managers to address opportunities of national significance for Louisiana's coastal master plan. Attendees include: Governor John Bel Edwards, Former Governor Kathleen Blanco, Former U.S. Senator, Mary Landrieu, Chair of CPRA, Johnny Bradberry, New Orleans District Commander for the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Col. Michael N. Clancy, Chairman of Governors Coastal Commission and the AWF, R. King Milling, Greater News Orleans Foundation, CEO, Andy Kopplin, and a panel of tv and print journalists.
The Coastal Master Plan's goal is a sustainable coastal Louisiana. The 2017 Coastal Master Plan will provide important information to Louisiana's coastal citizens, allowing them to protect their families, manage businesses, and plan for the future, according to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Sessions include "Louisiana as the Bellwether in Coastal Restoration", moderated by former Senator Mary Landrieu, Dr. Don Boesch of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Sciences, and Justin Ehrenwerth, Pres. and CEO of Water Institute of the Gulf; and a panel on "The Continuous Storm: Making the Case for Urgent Action" moderated by Louisiana Governor Jon Bell Edwards, former governor Kathleen Blanco (2004-2008), a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, and someone from industry.
The meeting comes at at time when parts of the state have been recently battered by tornadoes and has been dealing with unseasonably torrential and warm weather.
Last year was the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina's's devastation occurred because of levees breaching, not because of the hurricane itself. The pumping system was determined to have been antiquated, and the Army Corps of Engineers was sued. New levees went up around the Big Easy, but have been the subject of controversy further away from New Orleans. Braithwaite, La., for example, suffered massive flooding in late August, 2012.
Mardis Gras season in the Big Easy is well underway, with Fat Tuesday Feb. 28.
For more about the summit, click here.
Photo: via Wikimedia Commons Images. Louisiana National Guard UH-60 Black Hawks of the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment pick up bundles Christmas trees to drop into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to help rebuild the wetlands on March 30. The Christmas trees help to rebuild the missing wetlands that have been washed away over time by breaking waves and collecting silt for new vegetation to take root. (U.S. Air Force MSgt Toby M Valadie Louisiana National Guard State Public Affairs Office/Released) Unit: Louisiana Army and Air National Guard; Mar 20, 2010. By Sgt. Michael Owens, New Orleans, La. Source: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/265104/louisiana-national-guard-assists-with-coastal-restoration

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Global sea level rise highest in 27 centuries, scientists find

The following article was published on Examiner.com a year ago, February 23, 2016
In a paper published Mon. Feb. 22, 2016 scientists were able to prove what has been suspected for some time: climate change is not only warming the planet, but pushing the seas to rise to dangerous levels.
"A significant GSL (global sea level) acceleration began in the 19th century and yielded a 20th century rise that is extremely likely ...faster than during any of the previous 27 centuries," report scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
In their paper, "Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era," lead investigator Robert E. Kopp of Rutgers and his team of scientists from Woods Hole, Tufts and other institutions, determine the estimated global sea-level (GSL) change over the past approximately 3,000 years based on information culled from a global database of regional sea-level data.
The scientists report that GSL varied by ∼±8 cm over the pre-Industrial Common Era, (also known as the Christian Era), with a marked decline over 1000–1400 CE coinciding with ∼0.2 °C of global cooling. The 20th century spike was "extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries," the team reports. (A centimeter equals 2.54 inches.)
The modeling further shows that without global warming, GSL in the 20th century very likely would have risen by much, much less, between −3 cm and +7 cm, rather than the ∼14 cm observed.
"Semiempirical 21st century projections largely reconcile differences between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections and semiempirical models," according to the scientists' abstract.
New Orleans is one of many regions of the world that will be most gravely affected by sea rise. Here on the Louisiana coast we are already losing wetlands at an alarming rate, at about 75 square kilometers (about 29 square miles) annually, and harsher, warmer weather on land and sea means a greater risk of hurricanes. PHOTO: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Images. Source: US EPA

Friday, February 10, 2017

Six years after BP oil spill, dolphins, fish and corals inspire restoration 

The following article ran on Examiner.com on the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill, April 20, 2016
Six years ago today, April 20th, TV viewers nationwide turned on the news to see a horrific site: footage of a fire on a rig in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast. The BP oil "spill" had begun, and at the time, no one would have imagined it would take 87 days to cap the Macondo well.
Twelve workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig died that day. For their families, today is a sacred and painful reminder that the errors made leading up to the spill are deeply personal. There were also several serious injuries, and countless illnesses tied to the catastrophe.
Beyond the human tragedy, which included individuals still suffering health effects from working on a Vessels of Opportunity boat that would prove cruelly and ironically named, respiratory illnesses, kidney problems, weight loss, and mysterious rashes would fill their family photo albums.
The tragedy of that day doesn't just include the oil. The dispersant, so called Corexit from the UK - again, ironically since BP stands for British Petroleum - was airdropped by the truckload on Barataria Bay and throughout the gulf.
I spoke to Ocean Conservancy's Bethany Kraft, Director of their Gulf Restoration Program, who said this week that while scientific studies have been and are being done on dispersant effects, largely, at this stage, it's tough to parse what damage was done by them versus the oil.
"I think the jury is still out on that," Kraft said. "In the early days (of the spill), some decisions were made - it was a trade-off, because had all that oil reached the coast, it would have been an environmental and public relations disaster on multiple fronts. It would have been a PR disaster for the government and for BP."
Her concerns right now are numerous. Early restoration projects have begun, even as the bulk of the BP billions won't roll out until next year. Projects currently underway include a seagrass restoration project in Florida; a loggerhead, green, and Kemp's Ridley turtle project in Texas that seeks to offset bycatch by way of trawling with gear improvements and increased monitoring; and a Florida-based fishing gear conversion project that will help bluefin tuna fishermen.
Her overarching concern is addressing this question: "How do we put together the suites of programs in an order and in places where they will reap the most benefits?" She said, too, that it is critically important that as ecosystem restoration goes into overdrive that the science leads, not politics or personalities.
From dead corals to dead turtles, dolphins who give birth to premies who wash up dead on Gulf shores, to deep concerns about the health of the ecosystem and human residents, the legacy of all that oil and Corexit will last for decades, maybe centuries.
And the fix can't be myopic. For example, when addressing a watershed issue, look too at oyster issues and fisheries, helping the oyster harvest and shoreline protection, said Kraft.
Ironically again, had the spill not occurred, the coastal erosion issues are among many preexisting problems funded by the BP dollars approved by Judge Carl Barbier in the New Orleans federal courthouse. Even so, the funds are "a drop in the bucket in terms of what our needs are," Kraft said.
Are there any positives in the Gulf six years following the disaster? She said yes.
"I think we learned this ecosystem is resilient, even though any rubber band eventually loses its elasticity and breaks," she said. "It is reassuring in some ways, and one thing the spill did do was catalyze cooperation across the region like we haven't seen before."
However, she said with a dark laugh, "it's a really dumb business model to get hooked on."
PHOTOS: Top, the author on a boat in Barataria Bay, early April, 2013; Bottom, via Wikimedia Commons Images, Department of the Interior - June 30, 2010. Birds Prepared for Release at Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45431346

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

State of Emergency declared in Louisiana: Tornadoes cause injury, building collapse in New Orleans and vicinity

A State of Emergency has been declared in Louisiana by Governor John Bel Edwards, as more news comes in about the horrific weather events in the state today. Tornadoes have touched down in New Orleans and vicinity wreaking havoc, including injuries, across the area and the state. As of this writing, a tornado watch remains in effect for South Louisiana. Homes, buildings, and highways saw damage across a wide swath of the Bayou State, with some areas still vulnerable to tornadic activity.
The Advocate has mapped out the tornado touchdowns, with nine confirmed tornadoes and one possible tornado in Baton Rouge.
Confirmed tornadoes have touched down in:
Orleans East
Old Jefferson
West of Independence
Mayor Mitch Landrieu held a press conference about the tornado damage in New Orleans East, and tweeted that he knew that despite major damage, the city would rebuild.
Early this afternoon two people were reported to have suffered serious injuries and about a dozen others minor injuries, according to Fox 8.
However, later today, Weather.com reported:
"One of the hardest-hit areas was New Orleans East. Shortly after the supercell passed through, severe damage to homes and businesses was reported by local media. Emergency managers reported at least 60 homes and businesses were damaged in New Orleans East, and about 25 people were hurt." The Weather Channel reported at 4:30 CT that more than 50 homes have been destroyed so far
and 11 people injured. Following a preliminary survey, the National Weather Service said the twister was at least EF2 in strength, meaning it can have wind speeds between 111 and 135 mph, and while serious, is typically survivable if one is in a sturdy home. Mobile homes can be wholly lifted off the ground, though.
New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell said the worst of the damage on Chef Menteur Hwy is in the 4700 block, Fox 8 reported. Ironically, almost 10 years to the day, a tornado ripped through the Carrollton section of the Big Easy (see photo).
On the NOLA.gov website, the city issued this release:
"Today, at 10:45 a.m., the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in New Orleans East. Emergency crews are currently responding to several reports of damage in the affected area. As a result, Interstate 10 exits at both Chef Menteur Highway and Downman Road are CLOSED at this time.
No information is available at this time regarding possible injuries, fatalities or damage assessments in relation to this weather event. Public safety is our top priority, and residents are advised to be aware of and cautious around downed power lines, gas leaks and other debris. Please avoid all impacted areas.
The City will open a temporary shelter at Joe W. Brown Recreation Center (5601 Read Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70127) at 3 p.m. for impacted residents. The New Orleans Health Department, with support from the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and NOFD, will assist affected individuals. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will provide bus transportation to the shelter for affected individuals at the intersections of Dwyer Road and Wilson Avenue; Dwyer Road and Crowder Boulevard; and Dwyer Road and Wright Road.
Currently, the New Orleans Fire Department is conducting a primary search of damaged homes from Chef Menteur Highway to Dwyer Street and Wilson Avenue to Bullard Avenue, as well as one block south of Chef Menteur Highway."
Energy provider Entergy, who stepped up to the plate after Katrina, reports approximately 9,200 outages, according to the City of New Orleans. The situation is fluid, though, so do check the company's website. They have interactive maps showing where the outages are.
Louisiana residents should stay tuned to local news and keep their phones and radios at the ready. NOLA.gov advises, "The City’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is monitoring weather conditions and will keep residents updated through e-mail alerts and at @NOLAReady."
UPDATE, 5:30 pm CT: NBC News reports that at least a dozen people have been injured.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Images: by Infrogmation - Own work, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1673259, CARROLLTON, NEW ORLEANS TORNADO, FEB 13, 2007