Saturday, April 30, 2011

News roundup

Several days before an accident in Pittsburgh resulted in two sunken barges in the Ohio River, the Coast Guard warned towboat operators of hazards of navigating in high water and suggested they reduce the number of barges in each tow, according to The Pittburgh Tribune-Review.

The article says the Coast Guard has recorded two or three times the usual number of accidents during the recent high water, the article says.


The Great Steamboat Race in Louisville, normally held during the week before the Kentucky Derby, has been rescheduled to June 29 because of high water.


Here's another one everyone saw coming: Officials address mooring issues after riverfront restaurant breaks  loose.


One more: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear estimates flood damage to the commonwealth at $34 million.


Debi Sharp downbound

Thursday morning and afternoon, I attended the meeting of the Marshall University Board of Governors. On the way back home to file my story for the Internet, I decided to take the long way. If I saw a boat and felt the need to get some pictures, I could charge it off to lunch time. But I had to enjoy the first nice day that I could spend -- at least part of it -- outdoors.

I took a few pictures of the East End bridge just to have for comparison of how it looks at different times of day and year in different weather conditions. As I got in my car, I reviewed the pictures and noticed there was a boat under the bridge, probably a Crounse boat. Those things are pretty distinctive. So I figured I'd get a few more shots off before I got back to work.

The Ohio River was running high and the wind was whipping up some waves, which helped make for some big splashes as the barges pushed through.

D.A. Grimm

Here's one of the D.A. Grimm stopping at Kenova, W.Va., to pick up a few barges. Or move them around. I don't know what it was doing, really, because I couldn't get a good look at it. But I did get a different view of it as I shot the pilothouse from below, thanks to the high water.

The Grimm is one of my favorite boats to shoot. I don't know why. Maybe it's the classic old-time look. Maybe it's because I see it and a similar boat, the Bill Stile, so often.

I took this picture, too. Then I tried to tweak it to make it look better. But things kept going wrong. So I remembered an old saying: Once a job has been messed up, any attempt to make it better will only make it worse, sometimes much worse.

Here's evidence that said saying is true:

Flood news and a difficult decision

The good news regarding the Ohio River flood of 2011 is that in some places the river has crested and is falling, such as in Evansville.

But along the Mississippi River in Missouri, people fear the Corps of Engineers will proceed with a plan to blow a two-mile-wide hole in a levee to relieve  pressure on the Ohio  River at Cairo, where the flood is expected to top 1937 levels. Understandably, a lot of people in Missouri don't want to sacrifice their homes and farms to save the city of Cairo. Likewise, the people of Cairo don't want to be a smaller version what happened in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. So far, a court has sided with the Corps and Cairo, but the decision likely will be appealed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

the Omar

Yesterday evening, I saw the Omar for the first time in maybe 20 years, and Adam saw it for the first time as we caught up with it at Catlettsburg, Ky. It was at Boggs Landing when we got there, and we got to see it leave.

Here it is a mile or so down from where we were. I assume it was returning to the barges it had dropped so it could stop at Boggs Landing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adam meets David Smith

Adam and I had a pleasant evening out shooting pictures of towboats. We saw the D.A. Grimm picking up a barge or two or three (we couldn't tell) at Kenova's Virginia Point Park. We got to see the Omar close up. I hadn't seen the former Ohio River Co. boat in maybe 20 years, and Adam had never seen it. We were about to leave when David Smith, a pilot I've known for maybe 20 years, pulled up and started talking with us.

I met David in the 1980s when he was captain of the Ashland Oil boat Valvoline. Now he's a partner in River Marine Enterprises LLC of Paducah. He spends a lot of time with the Bridgett Cauley. The boats owner contracts with River Marine Enterprises to operate the Caulley. We talked about that boat and some others, including the Smitty, which David said is headed to the Illinois River soon.

It was a good conversation and nice to catch up with someone I hadn't seen in a while.

We got some good pictures. It will take a while for me to download and choose a few to put on the Web. Plus we stopped at the Boat Store at Merdie Boggs, where Adam got a red t-shirt with the silhouette of a towboat and barges, with the words "Just Tow It." He'll probably wear it to school tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Troubles on the lower and upper Ohio

There's not a lot I can say about the flood on the lower Ohio River because I'm not there and I don't expect to be there. All I can do is link to some articles, including this one I found today on the AccuWeather site.

On the upper end of the river, I tip my Toyota ballcap (it was free) to C.R. Neale, Brian Green and Mark Kincaid for pointing out some problems they're having in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flood thoughts

Curiosity got me to looking at historic flood heights here in Huntington WV, and I found that the river's crest of 52.25 feet on March 13 of this year was the 24th highest on record, although I wonder why crest heights on two consecutive days are included on the list.

The highest I can remember was 1997, which was 10th on this list. I remember several others, but some that were recorded in recent years I have no memory of. I guess after my first introduction high water after college -- Number 21 in 1978 -- made me judge high water differently.

Looking down the river at, say, Golconda, Ill., the forecast puts this week's flood in the Top 5 all-time along with 1997.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Cairo, Ill., is calling for people to leave town.

More links to flood news

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has declared several counties in western Kentucky as a disaster area. Excerpt from story: "Doug Harnice, deputy judge-executive in McCracken County, said officials there haven't seen the Ohio River at levels this high since 1937."

 And it's bad on the Mississippi River, too.

Officials in Evansville talk about the safety of the floodwall there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

MCFS data

Most people judge a flood by how high the water got -- or will get. Another way is by considering the volume of water flowing past a point.

Here is the current state of the river and daily projections through Thursday of the flow in thousands of cubic feet per second and current speed. At Huntington, things should start falling back tomorrow, but if you look at points downriver, you'll see a lot more water is headed their way.

In doing some math, it looks like the volume of water flowing past Evansville will be about 22 percent greater on Thursday than it was today. Farther down at Golconda, Ill., the volume will increase by about 17 percent. Some of the tributaries in that end of the river may be in for it, too.

Looking upriver, there may be another but smaller slug of water headed our way. Check out the predictions for the Willow Island Locks and Dam or for Parkersburg to see what I mean.

A ceremony and a disappointment

Today I was able to confirm that one of my favorite boats is getting a new name. The Pennsylvania, formerly known as the L. Fiore, will become the O. Nelson Jones at a ceremony and reception at Haddad Riverfront Park on the Kanawha River at Charleston, W.Va., late Friday afternoon.

The Pennsylvania is one of the few remaining boats that some people on the river refer to as "turtlebacks." Only two of them are seen on  my home part of the Ohio: the Pennsylvania and the Ronald E. Wagenblast, formerly the John Ladd Dean.

I called Madison Coal & Supply today to verify what I had heard, and the person there confirmed the facts and said it was an invitation-only event.

Adam was disappointed when he found out we couldn't attend. I explained that these things are private  parties where the company wants to do something for its customers, friends and such. Maybe we'll go by the park on Friday and get a picture or two from afar. Or maybe we'll forget the whole thing and do something closer to home. We'll worry about that then. That's why they invented tomorrow, you know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More high water news

I don't like it when TV weather people wear out the phrase "severe weather," but this week they have my permission to use it.

This from Channel 3 in Huntington says the lower half of the Ohio Valley could be in for a lot more rain.

Some tributaries of the Ohio River in the Evansville area are causing some pretty bad problems.

The Cincinnati area has set a record for rainfall in April, and more is to come. It's possible the river could crest there higher than it did last month.

A casino at Metropolis, Ill., is closing until further notice because of  high water.

And that's just a sampling of what's going on.

311 fleet

This is a little blurry, but it catches what happens at the 311 fleet at Huntington. The linehaul boat is the Lee Synnott. The smaller ones are the Stephen T and the Michael D, but don't ask me which is which.

Adam shot this as I drove over the Wet 17th Street bridge as darkness was setting in. It's a two-lane bridge that connects two four-lane highways, so you might imagine the traffic can be rough for someone trying to get a shot of anything on the river. There's no sidewalk and practically to room for walking. So about the best you can do is have someone shoot while you drive.

I'm guessing the Synnott has dropped off some empty coal barges and is picking up some loads to deliver to a power plant somewhere. The smaller boats shuttle empties and loads in and out of the Big Sandy River, about seven miles downstream.

Passing Huntington in the rain

The Linda Reed passing Huntington as rain was about to fall.

Actually, rain did fall. I was up on the bridge getting the pictures. I wanted to show how 20 feet of water looks on Harris Riverfront Park. Before the Reed went under the bridge, I looked to the west and saw what looked like rain headed my way. I figured I could get the photos and get off the bridge before rain fell. Before I got the last picture, rain blew in from the east. You can see drops on my lens filter in the last picture.

Three barge pics

Paducah murals

Here's an article on the floowall murals at Paducah.

Murals look better than bare concrete walls if they're done right and if they're unique.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two things in the news

The river is still up and the rain keeps on coming. So what else is new, right?

Here are a couple of news items.

First, a New York investment company that wants to build a coal gasification plant along the Ohio River near Rockport, Ind., have started the process of applying for the necessary permits.

Second, there's more attention on problems with abuse of prescription painkillers in Appalachia and in counties along the Ohio River. Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story on the situation in Portsmouth, Ohio. A lot of the story was familiar to people who have read about the problem already. And the there's this piece in The Cincinnati Enquirer about how desperate some people in Appalachia are to get the drugs, and how the governors of Ohio and Kentucky are looking for ways to cooperate in their fight against the problem.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Selenium removal

I'm sorry I'm two weeks late on this. ...

AEP is installing a new technology at is Moutaineer Power Plant along the Ohio River near New Haven, W.Va., to remove selenium from its waste water.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More high water coming

Last year we had the winter that would never end. This year we have the high water that will never end.

The National Weather Service says rain this weekend will aggravate existing problems with high water along the Ohio River.

Here at Huntington, the river is at 41.58 feet and could go to as high as 48.8 feet by Monday morning. according to the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

Oh frac. Or oh frack. Whatever.

So what's the proper way to shorten "hydraulic fracturing"? I get the feeling some people are uncomfortable with the terms "frack" and "fracking," thanks to the recent "Battlestar Galactica" remake.

Anyway, here's a roundup of developments in the controversy surrounding the process used to extract natural gas from Marcellus shale.

Flood roundup

Will the Ohio River ever go down? It's been up for a long time, a fact noted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in this article. I like these two paragraphs:

The National Weather Service in Moon recorded 16.57 inches of precipitation so far this year, more than 6 inches above average. As a result, shipping on the waterways is dropping off, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission says, and the flooded Mon Wharf garage keeps closing -- it will be closed again through the end of this week. Grass is uncut at city parks, trees are uprooting in saturated soil, and there's no hot asphalt to fix winter's potholes.

"The weather sucks," Pittsburgh Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said. "We can't wait until the sun comes out."

In Cincinnati, the Coast Guard wants to talk with various businesses and such to talk things over. The river is close to flood stage there, for the second time in a two months.

It seems the river here in the Huntington area has been high for six weeks or more. Even when the river goes down, we'll need several days for the banks to dry out before we can enjoy them again.

The Belle of Louisville has had to cancel its Easter cruise.

And yes, the river is a dangerous place to be in high water. At least two bodies have been found in the river the past couple of days, one in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle, and one here in Huntington.

Meanwhile, a man in Toronto, Ohio, tried using a canoe to recover a dock that had broken away and found himself in a tree hanging on for his life.

I'll be back down by the river when the water goes down and the banks dry out. I've taken my camera to a couple of favorite shooting spots, but there hasn't been much to see. I might make it down there again today to see what's happening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A lesson in brand marketing

Adam put a note on Facebook a day or so ago because he was not happy. Last week I was looking on the vessel locator site for the Valvoline and the SuperAmerica, but I couldn't find them. So I looked by their ID numbers and found that the Valvoline had been renamed the Nashville and the SuperAmerica is now the Ohio Valley. The Paul G. Blazer, built around the same time, was still sailing under its old name ... for now, I guess.

Adam was peeved because he had known these boats by their original names, and he liked the old names better. I explained that they got those names when Ashland Oil had them built in the 1980s. Valvoline and SuperAmerica were two of Ashland's leading consumer brands. But when Marathon finished its acquisition of Ashland's refining and marketing assets a few years ago, the names no longer fit. Marathon changed all the old SuperAmerica to Speedway stores a few years ago. And Ashland kept Valvoline, so there is no need for Marathon to use one of its boats to advertise a brand that might compete with some of its own brands.

So the name changes were inevitable.

Here's a photo of the SuperAmerica downbound as seen above Rising Sun, Indiana. We got this last year while riding the Hoosier State after its christening.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coal gasification in Indiana

Coal gasification is a topic that comes and goes, comes and goes almost as often as rain showers in spring. One recent example is a gasification plant proposed for a site along the Ohio River in Indiana.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ohio River shrimp threatened

The BP oil spill occurred about a year ago, and now there's concern that it could affect a freshwater animal known as the Ohio River shrimp. There's a question about whether the Ohio River shrimp even lives in the Ohio River anymore, although a hundred years or so ago it did.

That wasn't supposed to happen

A restaurant boat comes sort of comes loose from its dock, spins around and bumps another boat. Maybe the restaurant boats and barges in the Cincinnati area should think about closing when the river is at or near flood stage. They seem to have some bad luck there lately.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Missed it by seconds ... again and again

I had to go get a son from his grandmother's house yesterday evening. On the way up the river, I saw the Miss Doris exiting the Gallipolis Locks and Dam (today I feel like calling it that, not the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam).

The sun was above my right shoulder as I shot this. As I moved slightly to get a better angle, I heard something on the river bank below, turned and saw this.

You'd think with all the herons that I've startled in the past two years that I would have thought to look for them, as I yearn to get a good photo of one up close, but no.

So I headed back up West Virginia Route 2. A few miles below Point Pleasant, I caught up with a northbound CSX train. Based on its speed and the position of the late afternoon sun, I figured that if I hurried, I might get a shot of it crossing the bridge over the Kanawha River. I got there in time, but just barely. As I got out of the car, I heard the rumble of the train on the trestle. There was no time to set up in a good spot, so I chose the closest one available and hoped for the best.

Now that I look it again, I might get a decent picture by cropping that tree from the bottom. But still it wouldn't be the one I wanted.

Anyway, as I started back to the car, I realized there might be a shot of the train on the trestle on the other side of the Kanawha. I hurried back to my shooting spot, but got there one or two seconds too late to get the photo I wanted. So I got this one.

On the drive home, I saw a nice sunset over the water of the Green Bottom swamp, er, Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area. By the time I had turned around and found a place to shoot from, the sun had already set enough to where the shot I wanted was gone and again I had to settle for second best.

Photography. A game of inches. Or seconds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Requiem for a snapper ... Updated

Sunday, as I was driving home from dropping the boys off at grandma's house for spring break, there on Ohio Route 7 was a black object with a familiar shape. It was in my lane in the area where my tires normally would have been, but I avoided it and turned around, wondering if it was a snapping turtle.

It was.

It looked like a large juvenile or a small adolescent, but I'm no herpetologist, so I can't say. It might have spent some time in the ditch next to the road. The ditch was full was water and, probably, amphibians. It wasn't moving when I saw it first or when I stopped. It just sat there like it didn't want to move. Or maybe it couldn't move for some reason.

I headed back up the road to find a place to turn around. As I waited to back out onto the road, several cars and pickups came speeding down the road. They were following one another too closely. I had a bad feeling.

Unfortunately, by bad feeling was right. I found the turtle on its back, dead.

A few years ago, this wouldn't have bothered me. Today it does. The fact that I had made eye contact with this little critter made it worse, I guess.

UPDATE: I put a link to this blog post on my Facebook page. Someone I used to work with sent me this message:

My first "dream job" was a herpetologist. I pursued that path until I was a senior in high school. I don't know how I got derailed. 

I also get what you're saying about perspectives changing over time. On my first fishing expedition this year I caught a snapping turtle. I used to just cut the line and let them go away. This time, I was determined to try to get the hook out of its mouth. Thanks to a stick and some pliers I accomplished my goal and managed to keep all of my fingers. On the same day, I caught two mud puppies. One of them was the largest I'd ever seen. 

So on my first trip, I caught one turtle, two mud puppies and zero fish. I rarely catch either. It could be a sign of a weird year to come.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New towboat vs. new cousin

Adam is a bit sad tonight. He's at his grandmother's for a few days playing with his seven-month-old cousin, Izzy. While he was doing that, I saw the new Marathon towboat named the Marathon coming up the Ohio River just below the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

I told Adam he gets to play with Izzy, while I have to follow a towboat.

So tell me, which is prettier and more fun? The Marathon ...

... or cousin Izzy?

You make the call.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Will the Delta Queen sail again?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an update on the Delta Queen, whose fate has taken another turn. I found this paragraph particularly interesting:

Denial of the exemption occurred under U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., then chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But after he lost his seat in November, the chairmanship passed to Republican John Mica of Florida, who said that if he got a request, he would grant an exemption and the Delta Queen could carry passengers once again.

So there might be hope that we'll see the DQ on the river again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Going down again

The Ohio River here at Huntington has dropped a foot or two in the past 24 hours, but it might be another week before it's close to where it should be for people to enjoy it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leftovers from the first quarter

Here are a few pictures I took this January, February and March that I haven't put up yet.

The Bill Stile making tow at Henderson, W.Va.

The Paula Ruble heading down the Ohio River.

The usual trash and debris left behind by high water.

I found this old house more than 30 years ago while driving around a flood-covered road near Gallipolis, Ohio. It was empty then, and it's empty now.

I saw this boat -- the Midland -- three consecutive days while shooting the March flood. Once tied u p at Catlettsburg KY, once locking through R.C. Byrd upbound and here around Mile 302, just above Huntington WV, downbound.

And the Lawson W. Hamilton Jr.

Tulip time

If the tulips are blooming at Huntington's Harris Riverfront Park, it must be spring.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Invasive species

For those interested in invasive species, this might be interesting. I haven't had time to look at it, and my work obligations will keep me away from it for another day or two.

But one got away

Work required me to be in Cabell County today. While I was going up state Route 2, I saw two boats heading upriver.

The closer one is the Champion Coal. I'm pretty sure the one in the distance is the Detroit.

Here's the Louise S.

On my way back home, I saw the Pennsylvania heading down the river. It would have been a great shot, as I saw the boat from above and behind. But there was no place to pull off the road, so I'll have to wait for another day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Living in a ____ down by the river

Want to know how many Ohioans live within one mile or 10 miles of the Ohio River? The Plain Dealer of Cleveland has the numbers.

Another new boat heading my way ... maybe

It looks like the Marathon, the last of three identical boats ordered by Marathon Petroleum Co., is on the Ohio River headed for Catlettsburg, Ky. At least, the Marathon is in Pool 52 this morning upbound. It may stop along the river somewhere, like maybe Cincinnati, for a while before it gets to Catlettsburg, but Adam and I will be looking for it when it gets here.

It's interesting that the Marathon is on the river now that we've gotten some decent looks lately at the Detroit and the Kentucky.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


You know on the front of a rake (slanted-end) barge, there are these things hanging down. What are they called?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Muddy still

I went down to the river this evening to see if I could get some decent shots of the Detroit as it returned to its home port. I got a few pictures, but few that were noteworthy. I don't know if any of them were, actually. The time of day, the clouds, the cold, the empty barges blocking the view of the boat from the front -- all worked against me.

One thing I noticed was that few agencies are in a hurry to clear the mud of the boat launch ramps. They're probably waiting for the water to recede a bit more, but there's a lot of mud out there. At least the trees are starting to turn green. By the end of the month, we should have good picture-taking conditions.