2020 By the Numbers: Looking Back on this Year’s Incidents

Posted Thu, 12/31/2020 - 14:36
By Doug Helton, Office of Response and Restoration Emergency Response Division

It’s almost the end of the year and time to reflect on events. What a year, from the pandemic and teleworking, to political events and protests and social change, to wildfires and a record hurricane season. The “normal” emergency response activities that NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration deals with on a regular basis still took place, but under the unrelenting pressure of a challenging year for all. 

Every year, OR&R's Emergency Response Division responds to a range of marine pollution incidents—from oil and chemical spills, to whale strandings and grounded vessels. Just as in previous years, the division provided scientific support to the U.S. Coast Guard in a wide range of scenarios — remotely when possible, and on scene when needed.

The calendar year started with the sinking and loss of the FV Scandies Rose near Kodiak, Alaska at 5:52 a.m. on New Year’s Day, with the loss of five crew members. The year is not quite over, and the most recent incident is a Dec. 28 oceanographic modeling request to help with the search for an overdue vessel from the Bahamas.

So far this year, we have provided scientific support on 189 new incidents, and are still helping with a couple events that happened last year, such as the car carrier Golden Ray that sank in Georgia on Sept. 8, 2019. That record-breaking salvage and wreck removal is still underway and will continue well into 2021. While 2020 was not quite a record for us, it was certainly a busy year, especially with the additional restrictions of COVID-19. Most of our responses are in the U.S., but we also provided support for a record number of international incidents in Brazil, Ecuador, Mauritius, Panama, Russia, Yemen, and Venezuela. (Not counting border incidents with Canada).

A map of the globe with red dots on it.
Map of 2020 responses supported by NOAA’s Emergency Response Division.

Normally, at the end of the year tally, we break down our reports by the oil spills, chemical spills, and other events, but here is a more detailed breakdown.

We had responses in 25 states and two territories. These included:

  • 29 fishing vessels.
  • 21 mystery spills (some were later ID’d).
  • 20 production platforms and wellhead leaks.
  • 20 yachts and other pleasure craft.
  • 11 pipeline spills.
  • 11 tugboat accidents.
  • Nine whales stranded or drifting.
  • Eight derelict vessels.
  • Eight freighter spills and groundings.
  • Seven International incidents.
  • Five hurricanes (each with multiple vessel groundings, oil and hazmat spills, and debris).
  • Four tank farm accidents.
  • Three tank truck accidents.
  • Three search and rescues.
  • Three marine debris events.
  • Two marina fires.
  • Two Navy spills.
  • Two plane crashes.
  • Two tanker accidents.
  • Two historic vessels.
  • And a rocket crash, ferry accident, flood response, train derailment, USCG Cutter spill, and a potential bridge collapse.

Even though this year and this holiday season wasn’t typical for any of us, we still have much to appreciate. I thank all of the emergency responders for the great work that they do. Let's ring in this 2021 with great celebration and hope for a brighter future.

Check out the slideshow below to look back on some of this year's incidents. 

On Jan. 26, two towing vessels reportedly collided on the Mississippi River at mile marker 123 near Luling, Louisiana resulting in a discharge of both sulfuric acid and diesel fuel. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard. (Click to enlarge).
On. Jan. 27, the U.S. Coast Guard requested NOAA’s assistance in locating a navigational buoy that parted its anchor chain and drifted away sometimes before Jan. 24. The buoy was recovered on Jan. 28. Photo courtesy of NOAA's National Response Team and Workboat.com.
oast Guard and Railroad Commission of Texas personnel clean up oil along the shoreline in Tabbs Bay near Baytown, Texas, Feb. 5, 2020. Booming and absorbent material have been placed around and near the impacted area. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard and Texas Railroad Commission personnel place a cofferdam around a wellhead in Tabbs Bay near Baytown, Texas, Feb. 5, 2020. Booming and absorbent material have been placed around and near the impacted area. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On April 12, an oily water discharge reportedly came from the Valdez Marine Terminal into Port Valdez in Alaska. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard, Honolulu Fire Department, and Honolulu Police Department respond to a report of a 21-foot powerboat grounded off Haleiwa Harbor, April 16, 2020. Pollution responders are on the scene assessing the situation and surrounding area for impacts. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On June 23, 20 barrels (840 gallons) of crude oil reportedly discharged from a 2-inch gas line within the Delta Duck National Refuge near Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Image credit: NOAA.
On June 18, 5 barrels (210 gallons) crude oil reportedly discharged from an underwater flow line in the Garden Island Bay near Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
On June 2, a 41-foot pleasure craft reportedly sank in Rolfe Cove off Matia Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington.
On June 2, a 41-foot pleasure craft reportedly sank in Rolfe Cove off Matia Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington.
On Aug. 14, NOAA received a report of a mystery sheen and product release coming from a storm outfall in Buffalo, New York. The product was contained with pollution boom. NOAA provided a spot forecast and a resources at risk report. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On Aug. 21, 2020, an explosion and fire and fire reportedly broke out in Corpus Christi Inner Harbor after a dredger hit an underwater pipeline. The dredger reportedly contained a potential of 8,000 gallons of diesel and an unknown amount of hydraulic fluid. The fire was extinguished and no sheen was observed in the water. NOAA provided support on response options, air plume modeling, trajectory, and resources at risk in the event of release. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On Aug. 31, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage was notified of a potential release of diesel fuel into Nushagak Bay from a grounded barge near Ekuk, Alaska. The vessel went aground due to a broken anchor chain in bad weather. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On Aug. 29, a fishing vessel ran aground on Kulichkof Rock in Sitka Sound, Alaska. The SAAMI was abandoned and then caught fire. The vessel after it caught fire. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
On. Sept. 3, a vessel reportedly caught fire and ran aground in the St. Clair River near Mooretown, Ontario in Canada. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Alysha Nagel, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Garrett Ragland identify an overturned vessel deemed to be a navigational hazard in Perdido Bay in Lillian, Alabama, Oct. 3, 2020. While underway the Marine Environmental Response team discovered the derelict vessel and reported it to the Incident Command Post. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16, leaving a trail of storm damage in its wake. On Sept. 22, the Coast Guard Sector Mobile tranistioned Hurricane Sally response operations to a maritime environmental response—focusing on pollution cleanup and salvage operations.
Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16, leaving a trail of storm damage in its wake. On Sept. 22, the Coast Guard Sector Mobile tranistioned Hurricane Sally response operations to a maritime environmental response—focusing on pollution cleanup and salvage operations.
Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16, leaving a trail of storm damage in its wake. On Sept. 22, the Coast Guard Sector Mobile tranistioned Hurricane Sally response operations to a maritime environmental response—focusing on pollution cleanup and salvage operations.
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jerry Griggs, conducts post Hurricane Sally assessments to determine environmental threats posed by vessels, in Perdido Bay in Lillian, Alabama, Oct. 3, 2020. Marine Environmental Response teams validated vessel statuses from initial data collected immediately following the hurricane. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
After an unknown volume of heavy oil from an unknown source washed ashore on Broadkill Beach, Delaware on Oct. 19, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration went on scene at the request of the Coast Guard to assist in hindcasting and forecasting the spill.
Tarballs on Broadkill Beach, Delaware. Image credit: NOAA.
Hurricane Zeta, which hit Louisiana on Oct. 28, impacted a test facility near New Orleans — releasing an estimated 500 barrels (21,000 gallons) of crude oil from one of three tanks on the platform. Image credit: NOAA.
On Nov. 10, an 88-foot fishing vessel grounded on a sand bar near the entrance to the Altamaha River in McIntosh County, Georgia. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
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2020 By the Numbers: Looking Back on this Year’s Incidents

Posted Thu, 12/31/2020 - 14:36

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