I spent all last week in Florida and had to deal with Tropical Storm Debby. (The post title is from a Jimmy Buffett song, though it’s not one of my favorites.) A foot of rainfall is not trivial, and the storm hammering my 17th floor hotel room window is not an experience I’d care to repeat.
Still, it couldn’t compare to a real hurricane. One of the presentations at the conference I attended mentioned the manufacture of the fuel tanks for the new Space Launch System at the Michoud Assembly Facility. Hurricane Katrina had her impact on MAF and the Space Shuttle program, with one External Tank damaged and flooding everywhere. However, it could have been a whole lot worse, if it hadn’t been for a volunteer group of 38 NASA and Lockheed Martin employees who manned the pumps and rode out the storm.
Michoud is near the spot where Katrina’s eye made landfall. Though hurricane winds exceeded 130 mph and waves topped the levee height of 19 feet, the crew braved the conditions to work a critical pumping station. They were able to pump more than one billion gallons of water out of the facility, which kept external tank production downtime to a minimum and prevented significant delays in the shuttle program.
The crew was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Bravery Medal, and I’ll admit, I didn’t know we had such an award.
Another Michoud incident that XBrad brought to my attention was TACA Flight 110. This flight from Belize lost power to both engines and couldn’t make it to the airport in New Orleans, so the pilot made a deadstick landing on the levee near MAF. No one on the flight was seriously hurt. They later replaced one of the engines and flew the plane out.