A stationary front positioned across the Southeast led to a large cluster of thunderstorms moving across Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states on Tuesday.
Shortly after the 129-foot Seacor Power liftboat, a ship that services oil platforms, left Port Fourchon Tuesday afternoon, it would have encountered a strong line of thunderstorms. The ship was around seven nautical miles south of Port Fourchon when the vessel issued a mayday call just before 4:30 p.m.
High waves and winds of 40 to 60 mph were reported at nearby land stations, even up to 12 hours after the boat capsized.
“The cloud tops reached over 50,000 feet, indicating very strong storms,” said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward. “Very strong winds were being pulled to the surface and radar data also showed there was rotation embedded within those storms so it is not out of the question that waterspouts could have occurred as well.”
If all of that wasn’t enough, there was also something called “gravity waves” at play.
This would have made it even more difficult on any ship in that region, let alone a large one already fighting storm conditions.
Rescue efforts continue
Six people were rescued from the water while the bodies of four people have been recovered so far.
The Coast Guard has been using contracted private divers to perform search and rescue missions the past few days. The weather, however, has not been ideal. Thunderstorms have repeatedly popped up around the search area with gusty winds, small hail, and the potential for waterspouts. Shower and thunderstorm chances remain in the forecast through the weekend, making it more difficult for the search and rescue crews.
“Our rescue crews have been diligently continuing the search and rescue efforts for the missing people from the capsized vessel,” said Capt. Will Watson, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans.
Watson noted that the water temperature is above 70 degrees, and that is an important detail.
So with water temperatures in the low 70s currently around the ship’s location, the temperatures may not exactly be warm, but they are survivable.
Mallika Kallingal, Joe Sutton and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.