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OMAO Pre and Post Katrina Assessments and Assistance

NOAA's Aircraft, Ships and Personnel Continue to Provide Post-Hurricane Assistance

An update on OMAO aircraft and ship activities - September 20-26

  • NOAA Ship NANCY FOSTER has been tasked to conduct an environmental survey from the Florida coast to southwest Louisiana to determine the potential for contamination from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Visit the NOAA Fisheries Environmental Impacts page for results of the surveys.

  • NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON conducted post-Rita surveys of the approaches to Galveston/Houston and is currently working in the Port Arthur area.

  • The NOAA Citation jet flew post-storm shoreline damage assessment flights. See the NOAA News story for more information and access to the photos.

  • Both of NOAA's P-3 aircraft flew missions into Hurricane Rita. NOAA P-3 N42RF completed an Ocean Wind experiment the night of Friday, September 23, completing all planned flights on Hurricane Rita. NOAA P-3 N43RF completed a reconnaissance/Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer surface wind mission into Hurricane Rita Friday night, completing all planned flights on Hurricane Rita.

More information on pre- and post-hurricane activities by OMAO can be viewed here.

Visit NOAA's web site to read more about NOAA's involvement with recovery and assessment efforts.

NOAA’s Bell 212 helicopter continued supply missions and assessments of tide-gauge damage and hazardous materials spills in support of NOAA Oceans and Coasts. 

The Shrike aircraft began marine mammal surveys September 17 to observe strandings and mortalities along the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi and the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana in support of NOAA Fisheries Service. 

NOAA ship THOMAS JEFFERSON completed survey operations in the approaches to the Pascagoula, Mississippi, ship channel on September 18, and began survey operations in the approaches to the Gulfport ship channel.

After completing its survey tasking, NANCY FOSTER conducted an investigation of offshore environmental impacts from Southwest Pass, Louisiana, to Pascagoula, Mississippi. The study was led by scientists from NOAA Oceans and Coasts, NOAA Fisheries Service, and NOAA Research to assess water contamination levels and associated fish stocks.

Small boat preparing to tow buoy that had flipped upside downNANCY FOSTER also recovered a non-operational weather buoy for the National Data Buoy Center and towed it to St. Petersburg, Florida, on September 19.

The two NOAA ships homeported in Pascagoula, GORDON GUNTER and OREGON II, continue to provide logistics and communications support to NOAA employees and local agencies.

Week of September 6 - 12


  • Tide gauge at Dauphin IslandThe Bell 212 helicopter is conducting tide gauge and HAZMAT assessments along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts with NOS personnel, and is conducting HAZMAT investigations with NOS HAZMAT personnel.

  • Hazardous materials aerial survey

    The Citation has completed its aerial photography and is standing by for tasking that may result from Hurricane Ophelia. The aircraft transported NOAA's National Weather Service personnel to Stennis for facilities inspection last week.

  • A Lockheed WP-3 aircraft conducted a flight September 10 for assessment of impact to living marine resources and the commercial fishing industry. The NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator was on board.

Ships:preparing to launch side scan sonar 'fish'

  • THOMAS JEFFERSON completed repairs to the Pascagoula tide gauge September 10 and is conducting side scan survey work in the approaches to the Pascagoula ship channel.

  • NANCY FOSTER is underway on a cruise to sample water, sediments, and fish/shrimp for evidence of toxic contamination and pathogens in the offshore waters affected by Katrina. Over the weekend of September 10, the ship departed Pascagoula for Gulfport Mississippi, to assess the locations of tide gauges.Instrument used to take sediment samples

  • GORDON GUNTER is assisting with cleanup and relief operations. The ship is also providing communications support to the Navy and Coast Guard.

  • OREGON II is assisting with cleanup and relief operations.

OMAO Employees Repair Generators

Hurricane Katrina knocked out power at the National Data Buoy Center(NDBC) at the Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and two OMAO engineers in Pascagoula came to the rescue. Edgar Figueiredo and ENS Tony Perry III, NOAA, from GORDON GUNTER were able to perform emergency repairs to the generators. They were able to keep power coming into the facility and to NDBC's mission.

Vaccines Acquired for NOAA Employees in Mississippi

OMAO also responded to a request via the Incident Coordination Center (ICC), Homeland Security Office, to provide 200 doses of hepatitis and tetanus vaccines for NOAA employees without updated shots at the Stennis Space Center who might be exposed to raw sewage in the water. LCDR William Foust, U.S. Public Health Service, who works at the Marine Operations Center - Pacific, located a source for tetanus vaccines -- which are in extremely short supply nationally -- as well as hepatitis vaccines, and convinced the Department of Health and Human Services to sell them to OMAO. Because FedEx will not deliver refrigerated packages to the end address, LCDR Michele Pelkey, USPHS, who is assigned to Marine Operations Center - Atlantic, drove to the FedEx office in Mobile, Alabama, to pick up the vaccines and then drove to Stennis to deliver them. LCDR Keith Roberts, NOAA, at ICC helped coordinate their efforts.

Immediately Following Katrina's Landfall -

helicopter and suppliesAircraft Are Supporting Logistics

The Bell helicopter has been flying numerous supply runs to GORDON GUNTER and OREGON II, the Pascagoula NOAA Lab, the NOAA Office at Halter Marine and NOAA's Stennis facilities. So far over 6,000 pounds of supplies (water, food, generators, electronics, SAT phones, hygiene items, insecticide, diapers, paper plates, plastic ware, tarps, flashlights, medical kits, fans, bedding) have been delivered to these facilities. Additional flights have been flown up the Pascagoula River to locate hazards to navigation. After leaving the Stennis area, the crew flew in search of a wayward National Data Buoy Center buoy that is somewhere in the streets of Gulfport Mississippi. The Shrike has flown to the helicopter's temporary base in Panama City, Florida, to provide the crew with more fuel containers.

Ships Dispatched to Survey Ports for Obstructions NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

NOAA Ship Nancy FosterNANCY FOSTER and THOMAS JEFFERSON were released from their scheduled sea days by the Office of Coast Survey and have been diverted to help survey port areas in Mobile, Alabama, and Pascagoula, Mississippi, respectively. NANCY FOSTER, a coastal oceanography vessel, was outfitted with multibeam and side scan sonar and is now on site, carrying an ad hoc Navigation Response Team from the Office of Coast Survey to conduct the surveys. THOMAS JEFFERSON, a hydrographic survey vessel, is en route from Norfolk, Virginia, and should be on site later this week.

Citation jet showing camera ports in bottom of aircraftNOAA Aircraft Fly Damage Assessment Surveys; Collect Imagery

At the request of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC), a NOAA P-3 flew two damage assessment flights over the hurricane-ravaged area last Wednesday and Thursday. Aboard both days was Max Mayfield, Director of NHC, who needed to compare actual damage against storm predictions. With him the first day were senior meteorologists from NHC. On the second flight were VADM Lautenbacher, RADM De Bow, and CAPT Steve Kozak, AOC Director, as well as staff from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Citation, tasked by NOAA's Remote Sensing Division, flew over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama from the day after Katrina's landfall through Labor Day, and collected more than 5000 digital photographs of the devastation. The aircraft can support a wide variety of remote sensing configurations, including large format aerial photography, as well as data collection for digital cameras, hyperspectral, multispectral and LIDAR systems. The images have been posted at http://ngs.woc.noaa.gov/katrina/.  Though a partnership between NOAA and Google.com, Google has made our imagery available using the Google Earth product. See http://earth.google.com/katrina.html for details.

NOAA Ships Survive Storm; Port Office Does Not

2 ships and port officeGORDON GUNTER and OREGON II weathered Hurricane Katrina, but not without damage to OREGON II’s hull.  There is a foot-long gash in the hull above the waterline and some scarring on the hull from banging against the pier.  The ship has some systems operating on generators and a few people still on board, but the ship will need repairs before it can become operational.  Finding a nearby shipyard that is up and running may be problematic. The extent of damage and estimated time for repairs is unknown at this time.  GORDON GUNTER was unscathed, and its systems are running. The Pascagoula Port Office, which is part of the Pascagoula Fisheries Lab building, has significant damage; OMAO will work with the NOAA Facilities Office and NOAA Fisheries as the facilities are repaired or rebuilt. The pier suffered structural damage, but the ships are still able to berth there.

ship at shipyardHENRY B. BIGELOW, which has not yet been delivered to NOAA, has no apparent damage, but the VT Halter Marine, Inc., shipyard has suffered extensive damage and will probably not be up and running for at least another month. In fact, BIGELOW generators were offered for use to help provide power to the shipyard. The NOAA offices on site were destroyed, and all paper records were lost. We do not know yet how this will affect the NOAA Fisheries Survey Vessel and SWATH programs.

GORDON GUNTER Becomes Haven and Communications Hub

GORDON GUNTER weathered the storm without damage and has stepped up to help others. It is providing shelter and meals for its crew as well as crew from OREGON II, some displaced NOAA personnel and their families who have lost their homes, a U.S. Coast Guard seaman, and members of NOAA's Navigational Response Team who are surveying the area. Mattresses were taken from OREGON II to accommodate as many people as possible. Personnel from the Pascagoula Naval Station and U.S. Coast Guard Mobile Sector have been using GUNTER's communications capabilities, including Inmarsat and Iridium phones and email. The ship's engineers and electronics technician have been working around the clock to keep the ship systems and communications operating. GUNTER also has been providing hot meals to NOAA personnel working around the NOAA Fisheries Lab and to visiting Navy and USCG staff. Fisheries scientists have pitched in with the cooking. Family members have been helping out with cleanup operations on the ship and in the dock area.

P-3 and G-IV Helped NOAA Weather Service Predict Landfall

Between 25-29 August during Hurricane Katrina, the NOAA P3 (N43) and Gulfstream IV provided pre-landfall reconnaissance for the National Hurricane Center. The P-3 flew 4 flights and 33 flight hours and deployed 121 dropsondes. The G-IV flew 6 flights and 49.7 flight hours, and deployed 153 dropsondes. Without the support of the Aircraft Operations Center flight crews and scientists, the loss of life from Hurricane Katrina would no doubt have been far greater. Hats off, too, to the AOC maintenance and ground crews that keep these aircraft safely in flight, and the operations personnel who provide logistical support.

Read the News Story on NOAA's efforts in tracking and measuring the storm before it made landfall and how NOAA is assisting in damage assessments and recovery efforts after the storm.

NOAA Aircraft Flight Statistics on Hurricane Katrina

Preparing to launch dropsondeThe Gulfstream SP-IV (G-IV) wrapped up its work in the environment of Hurricane Katrina Sunday evening, August 28, having flown for 6 missions in five days (one night flight), for a total of 49.7 hours, while launching 153 dropwindsondes and covering 21,015 nautical miles of flight track.

The Lockheed WP-3D Orion (P-3) accomplished 16 hurricane penetrations over 4 flights into Katrina, 7 at landfall (2 along South Florida, 5 in Louisiana). Continuous stepped frequency microwave radiometer surface winds were broadcast from the P-3 during its five missions, allowing NOAA to better predict storm surge and determine the width of hurricane force winds.

Satellite image of hurricaneThe stepped frequency microwave radiometer on NOAA P-3 N43RF was credited with raising the storm from Tropical Storm status to Hurricane status just prior to landfall in South Florida on Thursday August 25. The P-3 flight on Sunday August 28 was credited with measuring the 4th lowest barometric pressure for a hurricane in the history of the Atlantic basin at 902 milibars.

Aircraft activity statistics from Aircraft Operations Center on Hurricane Katrina:


  • 6 flights flown

  • 49.7 flight hours

  • 153 dropsondes expended




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