Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana was trashed by Hurricane Rita September 24, 2005. This wildlife haven was literally covered with tons of debris carried into refuge marshes by Rita’s storm surge. Almost one fourth of this 125,511 acre wetland refuge is covered with remnant homes, businesses, and industries from along Louisiana’s coast. The approximately seven million cubic meters of debris (250,000 dump truck loads) contains everything from teddy bears to tanks the size of large 18-wheelers. A post hurricane assessment identified 1,400 potential hazardous material items containing an estimated 115,000 to 350,000 gallons of hazardous liquids and gases blown and submerged throughout refuge wetlands.
This operation saw a combination of tracked cranes, marsh buggies and airboats in action. Single engine airboats, twin engine airboats and even a huge 3 engine airboat were needed to clear out heavy and bulky objects including oil tanks, propane canisters, plastic drums, 4-wheelers, fridges and freezers – anything the storm carried off. One of the airboats came equipped with its own deck-mounted hoist for heavy lifting.All photos: Tom MacKenzie (unless otherwise indicated)