Jul 27, 2011 10:48 PM by Maddie Garrett

Offshore Evacuations Begin Due to Tropical Storm Don

With Tropical Storm Don approaching, Shell said it's evacuating about 70 non-essential personnel from rigs in the southwest Gulf of Mexico. And that means helicopter companies in Lafayette are firing up their engines for the first round evacuations.

"These are very costly decisions that are being made, but over the years the oil companies have come to realize they need to make these decisions pretty early on," said Greg Roberts, Lafayette Regional Airport Director.

Roberts said they've weathered many storms over the years, as helicopters bring in offshore workers. He said the communications network in the Gulf of Mexico and in Southern Louisiana is well equipped to know where every aircraft is at all times.

"There's a lot of traffic, you've got some real professionals doing what they do best, which is fly these helicopters out to the rigs and to land based operations," said Roberts.

Air traffic controllers at Lafayette Regional Airport said even just hours after Tropical Storm Don was announced they already had several helicopters come in.

"We've seen quite a bit of activity here with PHI and others... It could be preliminary removal of some personnel and equipment off of some of these rigs," said Roberts.

While non-essential workers are brought back to land, production in the Gulf hasn't slowed.

"The decision to cutting production back right now has not been made to do that, and I think what we'll see is companies will monitor tomorrow and then make some decisions after that if it looks like they made need to do that," explained Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

And with any weather event, the storm could change and that could mean more evacuations or production halts.



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