Extent of Damage at Port Fourchon Unclear

Debbie Elliott speaks with Ted Falgout, the director of Port Fourchon, La., a gateway for much of the oil and gas production in the western Gulf of Mexico. The highway leading to the port is flooded, and the winds were too strong Saturday for helicopters to go out and assess the damage from Rita's storm surge.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Almost half of what our nation produces in oil and gas comes from the Gulf Coast, and about 60 percent of the foreign oil that comes into the US is imported through Gulf of Mexico ports. One of the places that all comes together is Port Fourchon, Louisiana, the gateway for much of the oil and gas production the western Gulf, and home to the nation's only deep-water, offshore oil port. Ted Falgout is the long-time director of Port Fourchon which took a hard hit from Hurricane Rita. He joins us by phone.

Hello, Mr. Falgout.

Mr. TED FALGOUT (Director, Port Fourchon): Hi. How you doing?

ELLIOTT: I'm doing OK. The question is, how are you?

Mr. FALGOUT: My typical response is, we're in good shape for the shape we're in.

ELLIOTT: I know there's only one two-lane road that leads down to Port Fourchon. Have you been able to get in to check on the damage there?

Mr. FALGOUT: Well, we've gone to the flood gates where there's about a 17-mile stretch of that road south of the flood gates that is exposed and is not protected by any levee system. And that is just about totally underwater now.

ELLIOTT: So what have you been able to see? Have you been able to get in there to see anything?

Mr. FALGOUT: We've had some reports that the damage is relatively light. There's a huge amount of debris. Of course, we still had huge amounts of debris from Katrina that were stacked up in the port. And that could not be removed in time, and I'm sure that's been spread as well as additional amounts of material.

ELLIOTT: So have you been able to determine if this is worse than Hurricane Katrina as far as the damage to your port?

Mr. FALGOUT: From the preliminary reports, we did not have the winds that we experienced during Katrina. So the power poles, much of those are still up. There is no power, but we don't--have not suffered the damage to that type of infrastructure. The roadway is, again, completely underwater. Until that recedes, we don't have any real good measure on if there were any serious undermining or breaches of that road. Hopefully not. That would be a major impact to energy. But I don't think that has happened. From the preliminary reports, it appears we did not suffer an extreme amount of loss as a result of Rita. But we--it was compounded again because this is one of the few areas that got substantial impact from both storms. We're right pretty much on the line of the western edge of Katrina, and now the eastern side of Rita.

ELLIOTT: Were you back up from Katrina? Were you back up operational? How much damage were you dealing with from that when this hit?

Mr. FALGOUT: We had achieved about 80 percent of our operational capacity; had power restored, which was a major feat. There was a huge amount of power lines down and damage to the major distribution system on--in and around the port. There was, you know, a whole slew of buildings that had been impacted. But the major structure of the port that would allow it to perform the function that it does was basically intact and we were able to get about 80 percent of our operations before Rita brought us back down to zero.

ELLIOTT: Are you at your home now?

Mr. FALGOUT: Yes, I am. My home is not within the hurricane protection levee system. It's in its own levee system and my levees are being overtopped right now. But if it keeps on going up, my farm could go in the water. I and my brother have an alligator farm and we have 16,000 alligators that we would sure hate to get--that would get loose if this farm would go in the water.

ELLIOTT: I think your neighbors would hate that as well.

Mr. FALGOUT: (Laughs)

ELLIOTT: Ted Falgout is director of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

Thanks for speaking with us, sir.

Mr. FALGOUT: Pleasure.

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