Loopers Warned To Linger in North Post-Sally (Video)
By SEAN WELSH
For those still on the western half of the loop and soon headed down the Tenn-Tom (or LMR), some unsolicited advice from a long-time disaster responder, licensed mariner, and Gold Looper:
I know it's late in the season and winter is soon upon us. But I suggest lingering as far north as practical until well past October. Hurricane season does not end until November 30, but, more importantly, you are now unavoidably traveling into a major disaster area because of Hurricane Sally. Things will not be the way you remember them if you've been there before, or the way they've been potrayed to you, if this is your first time.
No one will have time or resources to deal with you. Locals will be focused on recovery and self-care. Businesses will be closed (or destroyed), have limited hours, or limited stocks. Outsiders traveling for pleasure can be perceived (whatever the reality) as consuming resources needed to help residents. Or worse, as "disaster tourists."
Waterways in the area will have changed from what is shown on the charts. Shoals will have moved or developed. Aids to Navigation will be missing, off-station, or extinguished. The bottom can be littered with debris including sunken vessels or entire structures. Even well after these storms you will need to proceed with extreme caution; consider traveling offshore if weather permits and avoiding the GIWW altogether if possible.
Expect waterway closures and security zones, due to damage or recovery. Some drawbridges or locks may be inoperative or on reduced schedules. Download the Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs) each week, and listen to the Broadcast LNMs that the Coast Guard annouces every morning on VHF 16. LNMs can be downloaded here: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=lnmMain (Remember that the 8th District is separated into Gulf and River sections; download the correct one for where you are.)
Obtain your fuel, water, and provisions well before reaching the Gulf. On the Tenn-Tom that's likely to be Demopolis (at this writing, anyway -- too soon to tell how much damage they will sustain). On the LMR it will be Greenville, although limited services may be available in NOLA.
Expect communications to be spotty in many places. Cellular Internet will be overloaded, and inoperative in some places. Even voice will have issues. SMS typically works better than anything else cellular in a disaster area. Make sure you have a good, working VHF in case of emergency.
Marine supplies and services are likely to be unavailable. If you've been meaning to pick up a spare impeller, or some extra motor oil, or whatever, do it now. The simplest of problems can waylay you for a very long time in a place you probably don't want to be.
It should go without saying after the images I have already posted, but do not expect to dock. Anywhere for any reason. You might get lucky, but the chances are slim. If you do find a place to tie up, it may not have power, water, or pumpout. Expect to be self-sufficient once south of about 32° until you reach the West Coast of Florida.
My thoughts are with you and with all the people affected by, and responding to the pummeling the Gulf Coast is receiving. I'm pinned down at anchor today by gale force winds, with a lot of time on my hands to watch the news roll in; it is heartbreaking.