Port still assessing damage
Gene Bouillion is signing things.
The director of the Port of Orange writes his name next to a little red “X” at the bottom of a page.
He’s been doing that a lot lately.
On this occasion, he signs for a new truck to replace a car used to patrol the port grounds.
The car was ruined after it flooded from Hurricane Ike.
“At our slip here, we had 13 barges that broke loose or ran aground,” he says. “Later, in the process of trying to pull some of those off land, we had some ‘prop wash’ go over the stern of our small tugboat and it sank. It took us a week to get that up at a cost of several hundred thousand, if not $1 million.”
The port has also spent some $42,000 cleaning up debris, just along its peninsula alone.
Work crews killed an estimated 2,000 snakes during clean up.
The owners of all 13 barges agreed to have the port scrap them.
A large shearing tool attached to a track-hoe rips them up.
Bouillion says that when something sinks at the port, it goes down about 30 feet.
That might not seem like a lot, but it still requires sending divers and equipment, which isn’t cheap. “It’s one thing to prepare for the high winds,” he says. “But when you have an eight-foot tidal surge swelling up, something’s got to give somewhere. We also had three casino boats docked here break loose.”
But that’s OK, because FEMA will pay for everything, right?
“We, as a lot of homeowners are finding out, are learning that flood insurance doesn’t cover a lot of things,” Bouillion says.
According to port records, Hurricane Rita caused some $2.4 million in damages and the port got $90,000 in reimbursements. The port is still assessing Ike’s damage and cannot release a complete damage estimate.
However, Bouillion says, just as Rita did, the Ike aftermath will probably bring some encouraging news in the form of new business.
“After Rita, a lot of people took a look at the fact that we are 30 miles inland,” he says. “They realized the benefits of a better infrastructure as opposed to keeping a vessel right on the coast.”
And things could have been a lot worse, he says, describing a photograph he viewed taken near Pleasure Island, where yachts and sailboats ran aground on Texas 73.
Port employees did not stay in the port administration building for Ike, as they had during Rita, Bouillion says.
“This building is solid concrete, and strong winds don’t affect it much,” he says. “But we knew Ike was going to be a water storm, and if a barge had broken loose and rammed the building, it would have been very easy. It only takes a barge one-and-a-half feet of water to float if it’s empty.”
A captain sent by Horizon Lines to look after three of the company’s ships during the storm, used his wind gauge to clock Ike’s highest gusts at 114 mph. Those were much less than Rita’s winds, which tore off entire sections of the port’s warehouses, made of sheet metal. After Ike, inspectors noted very minimal damage to the warehouses.