Thursday, August 30, 2012

During Hurricane Isaac

Thankfully we're only getting periods of high wind and rain from feeder bands.

Below are a few video clips from the past couple of days.  The first is our neighbor's home during one of the heavy squalls.  I was tucked away on our front porch (you may want to turn down the sound since wind and rain noise is high).

During a break, I drove to Casino Beach and took video of the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier. It's difficult to hold the camera steady during such high winds. It was gusting around 38-40 mph at this time.

Back in my neighborhood, I checked to see how our neighborhood dock was holding up. At the end you will see how the high winds are pushing water ashore on the Sound side--as well as increased shaking as I turn into the wind. Notice the poor tern which is helping to block the sea gull on the pier!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The neighborhood - Tuesday afternoon

There wasn't a lot of flooding within my neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon.  The flooding we experienced was due to high winds pushing the choppy Intracoastal water ashore on the Sound side.  Below are some photos in my area.

The above photo is actually a home in the adjoining neighborhood. 

Looking east toward Portofino.
Looking west toward Sugar Bowl. 

Our community dock. 

The above photo shows why we don't use the lower levels of our homes on the island for living space.  We use the area as our garage and for storage.   Houses built to code must design the lowest level to "blow-out," if they are enclosed, so that the walls can break away during a storm surge and not create more resistance on the struture. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Effects of Hurricane Isaac - Monday afternoon

Flooding on the Sound side as strong winds and high tide push water ashore.  

Entrance to Ft. Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore is closed.

Surf is high and waves are spilling into the parking area of Park West.

Beach erosion near Park West.

 Waves pushing ashore near the entrance of Ft. Pickens.

Looking down at the flooding near the entrance to Ft. Pickens

Flooding around the pavilions of Park West.

Pensacola Beach fishing pier.

Waves rushing ashore.

Extremely rough surf in the Gulf.

Power of Mother Nature

Effects of T. S. Isaac - Tuesday morning

We've been spared the worst of T. S. Isaac and hopefully New Orleans will not have to contend with a Category 2 hurricane as earlier predicted.

This morning we are having wind gusts up to 40 mph and between a few small squalls, I went to the beach to get some video clips.

The two clips I want to show you were taken only a few minutes apart, but notice the difference in the dunes/sea oats are they are being battered by the surf:

Around 9:15 a.m. - close to high tide, pay attention to the sand dune I show about 7 seconds into the clip:

And about five minutes later, look at the same dune as it continues to erode and the clumps of sea oats being washed out. Judging from just a period of five minutes, I think you can see we will be experiencing major beach erosion after the T.S. Isaac.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Countdown to Isaac - Monday morning

Things are going very well at this point.  Pensacola Beach has been moved out of the "cone of uncertainty,"  which means our area is no longer considered to be in the targeted path of the storm. 

That's not to say that we won't feel the impact, however.  Tropical force winds will stretch out 200 miles from the center of the hurricane and they have forecast over 12 inches of rain for our area.  Our ground is already saturated from T.S. Debby and another front which came through two weeks earlier, plus constant downpours throughout the remainder of the summer.  Flooding will be an issue, for sure.

Some of our worst damage can come in the form of a storm surge, but at this point they are only predicting a 3 to 6 ft surge and it should come ashore near low tide.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a few of our remaining turtle nests along the higher dune lines will survive, but it's hard for me to see us lose any.

I was very happy to see that the gondolas were removed from the 200 ft. tall Observation Wheel overnight.  The last thing you want to see flying your way during tropical force winds, is a big shiny gondola.  Now let's just hope the rest of the structure is sturdy.  It doesn't appear to provide a lot of wind resistance.

Time to finish storm preparations here at home.  We are staying on the island now that we've been moved out of the "cone" and are getting ready to hunker down for a few days.  Hopefully we won't lose electricity.  Tuesday and Wednesday we will feel the brunt, but Thursday we will hopefully see blue skies and assess the effect of the storm.

Time to dig out my handheld anemometer so I can measure wind speeds as long as possible.  It will be interesting to see which will win the battle for my hair on those brief forays: will the wind blow it straight or will the humidity bring out my wild Irish 'fro!


Turtle update

I did a "second shift" run to check on some of our screened nests on Pensacola Beach and Santa Rosa between 10 and 12 p.m. last night, but the little turtles were hunkered down, and out of seven nests I only heard the slightest scratch from one.

I believe we ended up with 77 nests this year.  Counting the ones which hatched over the weekend and a few at Perdido Key and Ft. Pickens which were assessed without hatching (probably impacted by T.S. Debby storm surge), we still have around 40 nests left. 

With the hurricane forecasted to go farther west now, nests that are higher in the dune line may still have a chance.  It all depends on the height and duration of a storm surge on our beaches.

Hopefully we will get one last report from our morning patrols.  Although Ft. Pickens has closed, Monday is the regular patrol day for Mark Nicholas, our head biologist, so it will be completed. Santa Rosa and Pensacola Beach sections should also be ok for a last run, though the patrollers will be sandblasted.  Like Ft. Pickens, Perdido Key has also closed, so unless one of the bio-techs is assigned to try it, we won't know anything about their situation until after the storm.

I'll update my blog followers later if I get an final update.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Evacuation orders come down

Evacuation orders were issued about an hour ago for Zones A, B and C of Escambia County, however they are not mandatory at this time.

Evacuation Order for Escambia County, Florida

Countdown to Isaac - Sunday

The computer models are looking more favorable for us now, but we plan to put up our hurricane shutters and possibly hunker down on the island.  Hopefully we will escape a mandatory evacuation, although Santa Rosa County issued one for Navarre Beach earlier today:

Santa Rosa County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for Evacuation Zones A & B including all mobile homes, RV parks, campgrounds, those living in low-lying areas and all of Navarre Beach beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, August 27.

I was happy to be able to complete my Ft. Pickens patrol this morning.  As always, the island is most beautiful before the storm, as this rosy sunrise shows. 

There was a lot of bird activity

...and one crazy fisherman! 

Unfortunately the surf is already rough enough to erode the beach and our remaining, unhatched sea turtles nests are at high risk.


The greatest folks I never met...

...well, not until last night, that is!

My husband and I were getting organized to evacuate in advance of T.S. Isaac, forecasted to come ashore as a Category 2 storm Tuesday night, when I heard the phone ring upstairs. I couldn't get to it in time, but a wonderful lady by the name of Dee Askegard left me a message saying a nest was hatching on the beach and no one was there!  YIKES!

Dee was heading back to the nest, but left directions for me to find the area.  When I arrived, Dee and her husband, Vernon, were guarding the nest, which had been screened earlier, but was ready to "boil."  It was an impressive collapse and barely light enough for me to get a photo with my phone!  All the rain we've had this summer had created a hard surface over the nest, but there was a gap of 2" - 3" to where the hatchling heads were just beginning to peep through.

As we waited for the hatchlings to emerge, I discovered that Dee has been a long-time blog follower of Barrier Island Girl! We're practically neighbors, so she even knew where I live and how to get in touch with me - one of the advantages of island living!

Shortly after dark, more people arrived, adding to the oooh's and ahhh's as they saw tiny heads appearing. I felt a light tap on my shoulder and turned toward a pretty blonde  who said, "Are you DJ?"  What a hoot!  I'm beginning to feel popular! It was another long time blog follower, Kathy Condon, with her husband, children, and grandchildren!  Kathy and her husband split their time between Minnesota and their place on Pensacola Beach and they surely timed this family vacation perfectly for a very special event they'll always remember.

With the help of the Askegards, their friends, and the Condon family, we helped 98 tiny loggerhead hatchlings from PB6221 make their way into the Gulf of Mexico by 9 p.m. 

We also had two other nests hatch last night, so the tiny turtles must have heard there's a storm coming and decided to step it up!  Luckily, my friend and fellow patroller, Melanie Waite, her son Sean, and her daughter Celene's family (all long time turtlers) were all out last night to attend the sudden popping of nests.

There is a real possibility that our remaining nests will be completely lost or heavily impacted by Isaac.  Perhaps we'll be lucky and see a few more into the Gulf tonight, but then it will be out of our hands and up to Mother Nature. 

Good work, guys! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Countdown to Isaac

The countdown to Isaac began today.  Out came the hurricane preparedness file, the plastic bins, the important papers, and the suitcases.  We're in the process of moving things up from the garage onto the main level and clearing everything off the patio, decks and balconies.  We have people on standby to board up the house with our hurricane shutters on Monday. It's definitely not a do-it-yourself job!

The storm is currently estimated to come ashore Tuesday (evening?) somewhere between Panama City Beach on our east side and Mississippi on our west as a possible Category 2.  All we can do is be prepared, stick with the plan, and stay calm.  It's SO tempting to have the television turned to The Weather Channel, but it's really best not to give in and get swept up in their presentations which can be dramatic and easily have us wringing our hands and running to and fro' in panic.  It's been 7 years, 11 months and 22 days since Hurricane Ivan (I think, but who's counting!) and my blood pressure still rises at the mention of Jim Cantore's name or the possibility he's near.

I can't write this post without mentioning our sea turtles.  We have more than half of our nests left to hatch, so I'm very sad at the timing.  Currently we've witnessed over 1850 hatchlings into the Gulf of Mexico and, were it not for storms, we could have passed last year's hatchling record of 3400 in the Gulf, hands down.  Hopefully I will still be able to do my Sunday patrol and get some photos.  Ft. Pickens is always the first of our area to be affected due to its elevation, so it will probably be the first to close.

I'll try to keep folks updated in the days ahead.  Keep the Florida Panhandle dear to your heart and hope for a small Cat 1!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Holey Moley!!!

I'm taking up a crusade!  Generally we don't have a windshield on our UTVs and we like it that way due to the decreased visibility they cause, but this Kawasaki "Mule" was called back into service for a few days last week when another vehicle broke down.  Look closely at the photo below.  Do you see anything ahead on the beach, other than raindrops on the windshield?   Me either, but I barely avoided a dangerous situation.

I stopped the UTV, turned around, came back and took a photo (above), then stepped out of the vehicle and took a second photo (below) under normal conditions.  See anything ahead now?  I can hardly see it even here, except that I've gotten pretty skilled at spotting these danger zones.

I walked forward to the spot ahead of me.  Now I think you can see the problem: a 3 ft. deep hole which would have swallowed my UTV.

Another photo with one of my stakes at the edge of the hole.  For a little perspective on how wide it is, look at my UTV tracks on the left side.

When we are scouting for turtle tracks and trying to keep an eye on a storm, you can see the extra danger these big holes that people dig on the beach can pose for us.   

The storm above occurred this morning, and the photo below is of another giant hole I skirted on the beach at Ft. Pickens.

I don't really understand the pleasure folks get from digging these enormous pits, but I don't mind as long as they fill them in when they leave.

For the safety of our nesting turtles, our tiny hatchlings, and all our sea turtle patrollers, please get the word out to people about the danger of leaving holes like these on our beach.

The life you save could be my own! :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012


There are approximately 28 different types of sea gulls, so I won't even attempt to identify this friendly fella.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

This young Yellow-crowned Night Heron hangs out around two of our sea turtle nests at Ft. Pickens and I look forward to seeing him each week.  This morning he wasn't quite as shy as usual, so, despite the breezy conditions, I was able to get a little video of him.

He is much shorter than the Great Blue Herons we see more typically at Ft. Pickens and his head is larger and more rounded.  I think he's very dashing!

Saturday, August 04, 2012


In the event of rain or thunderstorms again this afternoon, the activities surrounded the Sea Turtle Baby Shower will be moved into the Lobby and Terrace areas of the Holiday Inn Express on Ft. Pickens Road

It was a big disappointment when we had to postpone the event last week, but none of us felt right about taking a chance someone could get hurt, especially considering all the lightning we've been experiencing.

NEW!  Want to win a beautiful sea turtle pendant? Smokey Joe, a local artist, has donated a beautiful hand-carved sea turtle pendant which has a retail value of $65. You have a chance to win it if you are the one who guesses closest to the date, time, and number of hatchlings that emerge from a nest behind the Holiday Inn Express. The more you know about sea turtles, the better your chance of winning, but Mother Nature makes the final decision in this contest.

I hope to see you there! The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and runs 'til approximately 5:30 p.m.