Boat clean-up begins again along Gulf Coast

GULFPORT – While there’s no doubt that the blow from Hurricane Rita could have been much worse, few people in Louisiana are celebrating as a second round of hurricane clean-up begins.

With that said, initial reports concerning marine businesses in Texas and Louisiana suggest that only minor damage was incurred during this second hurricane.

Boat recovery operations begun in the wake of Hurricane Katrina were temporarily stalled due to evacuations late last week. But a second round of flooding in many areas hit by Katrina has had limited impact on marinas and boats already damaged by Katrina.

Rita, which grew into a Category 5 hurricane as it moved across the Gulf of Mexico, weakened into a Category 2 storm before it hit land near the Texas/Louisiana border on Saturday morning.

While some marinas hit by Rita for the first time this hurricane season – like the Stingaree Marina on Texas’ High Island – sustained damage from the storm, most operators are grateful it wasn’t worse.

Stingaree Marina Co-Owner Jim Vratis told the Houston Chronicle that the storm caused damage to his docks that will costs tens of thousands of dollars to fix, but he still feels like one of the “luckiest people in the world.”

For businesses like Venice Marina in Louisiana, which was totaled during Katrina, further flooding may have had little effect. But at the very least, it has delayed the boat recovery efforts being conducted on behalf of boat owners’ insurance companies.

Sea Tow, for example, reported today that its employees evacuated its Gulfport base of operations, created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, on Thursday of last week, moving its boats and equipment three hours north.

The company, which is heading up boat recovery operations for several insurance companies through its work with Salvage Direct, was back on scene in Gulfport on Saturday and began excavating boats again on Sunday.

Sea Tow’s Ann Medford, who was in Gulfport on Sunday, said in an interview today that while the tidal surge had pushed some debris back into roads and relocated some vessels, the impact on Sea Tow’s work in the area was minimal. In fact, the movement of some boats during the storm actually made them easier to recover, she added.

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