Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Update from HNSA

Historic Naval Ships Association
409 Main Street
Smithfield, Virginia 23430-1375
(757) 356-9422 FAX (757) 356-9433
7 September 2005



Hurricane Katrina was not a welcome guest for our folks in the Gulf region. During the early morning hours of August 29, 2005 she came ashore. I had the good fortune to be able to leave telephone messages at both locations, and hoped to hear good news from both Maury Drummond at KIDD and from Bill Tunnell at ALABAMA. Maury got back to me rather quickly telling me that they had come through the storm in very good shape and even had power on the ship from a generator and anticipated being up and running within a week. The news from Bill regarding ALABAMA was not so good.

“The ALABAMA suffered immense damage from the hurricane. A storm surge of at least ten feet coupled with triple digit winds dealt the Park a crippling blow. The surge was the largest ever recorded in Mobile Bay.

Initial damage assessments show that ALABAMA had shifted position and was/is listing eight degrees to port. The aft concrete gangway leading up to the ship has been critically damaged. The Aircraft Pavilion suffered significant damage and is most likely a total loss. Many aircraft and displays inside the Pavilion have been severely damaged. The submarine USS DRUM, because of her positioning apparently suffered little, if any, damage.

Although the pavilion and the Gift Shop were completely boarded for protection, the winds with a 108 mile-per-hour blast recorded at the Park, while the Wind Gauge was still operational, ripped the boards from both buildings. Breaches to the Pavilion are numerous. The Gift Shop glass walls were broken and as a result there was two feet of water in the building, which houses the Ticket Office, Gift Shop, Inventory Stock Room and the Snack Bar.

During the immediate aftermath, there was at least five feet of water in the Park as well as Battleship Parkway. Water was lapping at the bottom of the I-10 bridges and downtown Mobile had severe flooding.” They do have power from a generator and telephone communication. The water has receded and the big problem right now is getting the ship righted.

The entire Battleship family, which includes Park employees, Battleship Commission members, and especially her World War II crewmen, are optimistic about the Park’s recovery. Park officials have pledged a full restoration to make the Park bigger and better in light of this natural disaster.

From the Mobile Register – “ A Battleship Memorial Park official said damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina on the park is worse than first believed and will likely reach $3 million.” We’re hoping to reopen the park by Veteran’s Day” said Bill Tunnell.

“ One factor involved in the increased cost of Katrina’s harm, Tunnell said, is that damage to about a dozen vintage military aircraft inside the pavilion is worse than originally believed. He estimated that it would cost between $250,000 and $500,000 to restore them.”

“A major factor in reopening the park will be the length of time needed to straighten up the World War II battleship USS Alabama, which was left listing about 8 degrees toward the shore by the storm surge, Tunnell said.” Bill goes on to say that “the two warships apparently sustained no structural damage from Kartina. He said, however, that the lights on a permanent cofferdam built around the battleship as part of the project were “blown away by the hurricane. Further, he said, “there was some damage to the cathodic protection system that inhibits corrosion to the underwater metal parts of the battleship and the cofferdam.”

“About 20 people, including park employees and their families, rode out Katrina inside the battleship, as has been a tradition going back some 40 years. Tunnell said those people who ride storms in the battleship volunteer to do so. He has said. “It’s the safest place in the area to be during a hurricane.”

“Tunnell said there was little, if any, damage to the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the park, which was flooded by the storm surge.”

Our hearts and prayers are with those that have suffered as a result of this catastrophic hurricane.

Jeffrey S. Nilsson
Executive Director


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