Hurricane Harvey is the first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Harvey strengthened to a Category 4 reaching landfall along the Texas coast on Friday, August 25, at peak intensity. By the next day, the storm weakened to a tropical storm bringing torrential rainfall to the region.
Before Harvey reached landfall, Coast Survey headquarters and field units were planning and positioning assets in strategic locations in proximity to the Texas coastline. Two navigation response teams—small vessels with three-person crews—were deployed and awaiting tasking for survey work prioritized by the U.S. Coast Guard, in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ports, terminal operators, state officials, and local emergency responders. The western Gulf Coast navigation manager, Alan Bunn, was positioned at the Houston/Galveston Incident Command Center (ICC), to coordinate response efforts. The eastern Gulf Coast navigation manager, Tim Osborn, traveled from Lafayette, LA, and was positioned at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi ICC, to coordinate response efforts.
Responding in Corpus Christi
Navigation response team (NRT) 2, (homeported in Fernandina Beach, FL) was prepositioned in College Station, TX, when they received the first request to assist in the vicinity of Corpus Christi. While surveying this area, they were tasked with acquiring additional side scan sonar data which helped facilitate the salvage of a 90-foot steel crane boom that broke off a drill ship. The team worked with the USCG to place a salvage buoy on its location, marking the boom for near-term removal. The team continued to survey the main ship channel edges and along the jetties framing Corpus Christi Pass.
The team also worked the USCG to verify the operation of a newly broadcasted set of synthetic aids to navigation for the pilots to bring deep draft ships to port. These “virtual” aids to navigation can be used in situations where information is needed faster than a buoy can be placed. After the initial work in Corpus Christi Pass was completed, the Captain of the Port reopened the port to deep draft vessels (with restrictions).
“Thank you all for the outstanding support in this effort.” – Darrell Johnson, USACE in Corpus Christi
Thank you to our navigation managers and NRT 2—James Kirkpatrick and Lucas Blass from north Florida and Alex Ligon from Stennis, Mississippi—for working with the USCG and USACE in this response effort. NRT 2 is now headed northeast to Matagorda Bay to do similar survey work in the pass and along the jetties. NRT 2 will then continue to Victoria Barge Channel, Seadrift, and LaPorte.
Responding in Houston/Galveston
NRT 4 (homeported in Galveston, TX, with Dan Jacobs, Erin Diurba, and Charles “Wess” Rowland) was in a holding pattern following the storm as their survey boat was inaccessible due to flooding. The team was unable to reach it until waters receded in the Houston area. The team is now surveying the Galveston Ship Channel and Bolivar Anchorages. Lt. j.g Patrick Debroisse from Bay Hydro II provided assistance to NRT 4.
The mobile integrated survey team (MIST) equipment was shipped to Stennis, Mississippi, and is now in Galveston with its support crew, Michael Annis, Joshua Bergeron, and Eli Smith. The team is integrating the MIST unit—single beam and side scan sonar— on the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary vessel R/V Manta.
David Evans and Associates, a NOAA hydrographic surveys contractor, is also enroute to the Houston/Galveston area. Their vessel, R/V Blake, will support survey efforts there.