Katrina forces changes in catastrophe response


SEPT. 19 — The BoatU.S. Catastrophe Response Team says the damage from Hurricane Katrina is so widespread it has been forced to adopt a new set of post-storm recovery operations.

BoatU.S. Marine Insurance has teams in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, but Carroll Robertson, senior vice president of claims, says the biggest challenge facing them is getting access to heavily damaged marinas.

In past storms, Robertson says, her teams could usually find a habitable staging area. This, she says, is not the case with Katrina.

“With Hurricane Andrew our team could go to Fort Lauderdale to file paperwork electronically, re-supply, provision and then get back in the field,” Robertson said. “With Katrina, we’ve needed to be completely self-sufficient from the start.

“There simply are no staging areas with the necessary infrastructure,” she said. “We went in supplied with food, water and fuel, issued snake-bite boots and made sure everyone got inoculated.” Robertson said the affected coastline is “a narrow corridor hemmed in by forest and the Gulf.” The roads are filled with debris, and bridges are gone in many places. “Simply moving around is a challenge,” she said.

Another problem is that many of the people who lost boats also lost their homes, and are unreachable because they have left the area.

One area where recovery had begun is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. On the south side of the lake, however, many roads are impassable, meaning many of the boats damaged in that area will have to be removed by water. The BoatU.S. insurance operatives have contracted with several barge and crane companies to assist with the task.

Another problem is going to be finding repair facilities for damaged boats. Most in the immediate area will not reopen for a long time, if ever.

BoatU.S. Marine Insurance expects that many will have to be trucked out of the region to facilities in other areas. “Yards in the northern climates may find themselves busier than usual this winter,” said Robertson.

Jim Schofield, manager of the BoatU.S. Cooperating Marina Program, says 23 marinas have been destroyed or damaged. “We hope that their families and employees are safe, and their businesses return.”