June 5, 2010

Decompressing after my last day of work on Friday.  That day ended up being a wash-out.   We were scheduled to re-visit Port Fourchon beach- post oil impact.  Although things had supposedly been cleared ahead of time, it seemed as though there wasn’t a person that was aware of these arrangements.  Did we have the proper safety equipment?  If we didn’t have safety goggles and boots we weren’t allowed to go out.  As I made a phone call to find out how this situation should be resolved, the same officer who had denied access, approved it.  He apologized for the misunderstanding and sent us to our next stop of security.  A single cop car with flashing lights waited at the base of the bridge that passes over the navigation canal.   We gave him our names and he waved us in with no problem.   The road leading up to the beach entrance was full of cars.  We had to park further back and walk up to another “check in” point.   I promptly gave him our names and advised that we had just been approved through the port office.  He didn’t question this and we moved beyond towards the tents ahead.  There had been no instruction in regards to entering and exiting the beach.   Approximately 250 meters away from the Gulf we were stopped by several individuals.  First, there was an ATV loaded with four individuals – they notified us that we would need an escort to bring us out to the beach.  They drove away.   Another individual approached and we relayed what had just happened.  We assumed that things were being taken care of and he must have thought so too since he simply walked away.  Finally, an “official” approached us.  He was one of several safety coordinators on site (wearing a distinctly bright blue uniform pant.)  “Bobby” reiterated that we were not allowed to go out on the beach without an escort.  He radioed back and forth to several people after we told him our plan to meet up with the other survey team traveling from the east.   There was an individual that would be coming to get us as soon as he finished up a job that he was doing out on the beach.  In the meantime, we watched as several vehicles went in the same direction that we wanted to go in (sometimes with only a driver and plenty room for two passengers.)  This resistance seemed to be par for the course and we waited for almost two hours before an individual was provided to escort us out to the beach.    Just as we were about to board the ATV that would bring us just a short distance to start our survey, the beach was closed due to impending weather.   Everyone off the beach!  Workers begin to slowly trickle in.  A protocol had been set up for re-entry from the beach.  First level of decontamination was getting their Hazmat suits off.   Second level involved each individual having the bottom of their boots checked before being allowed to have them washed by another individual and then rinse in several subsequent pools.   Once past these procedures, the workers (which I assume were work release inmates for the most part), were required to find their official name tag.  These tags hung on a line and each one represented someone that was on the beach and needed to be accounted for.

We waited another hour before the storm came in – lightning and high winds with heavy rain.   By then we had sought out shelter in my car and waited several hours while the rain continued into the afternoon.   I thought it might be more comfortable to go wait the weather out at the Port Commission office but then I remembered all the trouble we had just to get where we were now so I decided against that idea.  A few hours later and the survey was called off for the day.   Weather would continue to come in for the remainder of the afternoon. 

On my way north to Thibodaux from Grand Isle, I noticed a lot more media vehicles in the vicinity.  I wondered if this had to do with the bad weather that had just come through.  I crossed the bridge over Caminada Bay and observed lots of people standing along the edge of La 1 right outside of Grand Isle.   Still oblivious to what the sudden burst of press presence was about, I found myself in stand-still traffic just before the Leeville bridge.  (The image included in this post contains both the old Leeville bridge – to the right- and the new La 1 Expressway -rendered by an artist in this photo – the old bridge is no longer there.)   Traffic had been stopped for a motorcade crossing the Leeville Bridge and later I learned this entourage most likely included President Obama who was on his way to Grand Isle.  I estimate 30-50 motorcycles led this procession with a large gap in between them and a smaller set of cycles followed by other vehicles – all with flashing emergency lights.  http://www.youtube.com/my_videos_edit?ns=1&video_id=Rl-z76qG_Os&next=%2Fmy_videos

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