From LUMCON Executive Director, Dr. Craig McClain
In the days since Hurricane Ida, I have had the privilege to see the very best of people; including staff members who have lost their own homes volunteering to get essential supplies to others. A member of our leadership team, spent the day working on LUMCON recovery, checking in with staff, keeping their own research going, only then to go spend hours helping a neighbor cut up downed trees. Within a day of Ida, LUMCON’s advisory council set up a GoFundMe for staff members who lost their homes, generating over $30,000. A quick call to a colleague and friend (and the organization she is affiliated with) resulted in FEMA assistance for LUMCON staff and an air conditioner for a family with two young children. Even seemingly small acts of kindness are having tremendous impacts. The week after Ida, a colleague and friend quickly and eagerly jumped in to teach my course. That hour gained allowed me time to work on securing a remediation team for LUMCON and a truck to replace one damaged in the hurricane. Whereas we are not on a normal schedule or routine at LUMCON, we are doing our very best to support our staff members and our local community in any way, shape, or form.
The importance of a research and education facility located at ground zero for climate change, coastal loss, and hurricanes cannot be overstated. LUMCON’s role is to be that frontline institution. Since I began my directorship in 2016, the DeFelice Marine Center has experienced multiple hurricane and tropical storms including: Cindy (TS, 6/2017), Harvey (Cat. 4, 8/2017), Nate (Cat. 1, 10/2017), Barry (Cat. 1, 7/2019), Cristobal (TS, 6/2020), Laura (Cat. 4, 9/2020), Delta (Cat.2, 10/2020), Zeta (Cat. 3, 10/2020), and Claudette (TS, 6/2021). Some of these have flooded our facility, something we are built for. Some like Barry and Zeta have made more lasting impressions and damage. Most recently, on August 29, Hurricane Ida made landfall with sustained winds of 150 mph and gusts reaching a reported 172 mph; making it the second-most damaging hurricane to strike Louisiana and tying it for the strongest landfall in the state. The center of Ida came within 12.5 miles (the eye was ~18.5 miles in diameter) of LUMCON’s DeFelice Marine Center.
As you already know, Hurricane Ida caused considerable damage to the marine center’s offices, dorm rooms, plumbing, and roof. Remediation teams are scheduled to finish removing water-soaked walls, floors, and ceilings this week. A general contractor will be on-site this week as well to assess the work needed for restoration. Entergy has restored power to the center and running water may be arriving as soon as this weekend. Internet accessibility is still uncertain. Unfortunately, the old walk-in freezer and cooler failed to remain operable and will need to be replaced. We have rushed to secure important scientific samples in temporary freezers and refrigerators. UNOLS, which oversees the U.S. research fleet, has kindly loaned us freezer and cooler vans in support of our efforts. Our goal is to reinstate operations at the marine center in Cocodrie as early as next week thanks to the countless hours of work put in by the LUMCON staff.
In the wake of hurricanes, statements are constantly made touting resiliency. But resiliency is not what I am witnessing here every day. As the famous essayist and statistician, Nassim Taleb proposes, “The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” We are antifragile, and we are getting stronger. We are increasing our capacity to thrive because of Hurricane Ida. Plans are already underway to strengthen LUMCON as a whole, as well as, increase our capacity to respond to disasters. Post-Ida we stand before you with our bayou community antifragile.
Craig R. McClain