At least one dead after severe storm capsizes ship in Gulf

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The United States Coast Guard confirmed Wednesday that one body has been recovered and the search for at least 12 other crew members continued one day after a 129-foot lift boat capsized amid turbulent waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard, along with the help of several good Samaritans, helped rescue six people from the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday after the Seacor Power capsized about 8 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The lift vessel had 19 members on board at the time.

Of the six victims rescued, four were saved by private boaters and other vessels that acted quickly and managed to reach some of the people before the Coast Guard could arrive.

The Coast Guard said Wednesday that it had searched 1,400 square miles of the Gulf, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

"Coast Guard watchstanders received an emergency position indicating radio beacon notification at 4:30 p.m. of a distressed 129-foot commercial lift vessel," the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement released late Tuesday night. "The watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast, which multiple good Samaritan boatcrews responded to."

In addition to the volunteer rescue efforts and Coast Guard vessels, search efforts have required the use of an HC-144 Ocean Sentry plane, NBC News reported. On Wednesday, Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson III said family members of the missing crew members began gathering near Port Fourchon to seek information.

"The hope is that we can bring the other 12 home alive," Chaisson said by phone Wednesday morning, according to WRAL.

Storm reports from the area indicated wind gusts of 75 mph were measured during the storm near Grand Isle, with a 112-mph wind gust measured offshore at an oil rig.

The dangerous thunderstorm complex that pressed across southern Louisiana generated a small-scale weather system known as a "wake low," which meteorologists also refer to as a gravity wave. It's a rare weather phenomenon that can cause strong winds even outside of thunderstorms, which can in turn stir up rough surf over open waters.

During a Wednesday press conference, Coast Guard Capt. Will Watson said winds were 80 to 90 mph when the vessel overturned and seas were 7 to 9 feet, according to The Associated Press. For reference, a Category 1 hurricane is a tropical system that packs sustained winds of at least 74 mph.

According to NOLA.com, the Seacor Power is an offshore construction jack-up crane barge that carries nearly 40,500 gallons of fuel oil.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Jonathan Lally said Coast Guard boats took to the water to search for victims after reports came in of "multiple vessels hit" during a microburst of weather.

Lally reported the Coast Guard was forced to wait to put helicopters in the air because of the extremely poor weather conditions.

The U.S. Coast Guard Heartland warned in a Facebook post that there were "significant hazards to life and property" following flooding and storms which caused damage in New Orleans and surrounding communities.

"On Tuesday afternoon, a cluster of heavy rain and thunderstorms moved southward toward coastal Louisiana. By the time the storms reached Grand Isle, they were capable of producing damaging wind gusts and rough surf," AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Curtis said.

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As a storm moves over open water, conditions at sea can change in a heartbeat. Waves can rapidly rise to dangerous levels, which is why Curtis warns it is very important for mariners and boaters to watch the sky and monitor the forecast.

Louisiana resident Bruce Simon took to Facebook to say he has never heard so many "mayday" calls at one time in his life. Simon posted photos of the severe weather and big waves from the area, according to Fox 8 Live.

"I'm on the boat and we doing 4 knots keeping the bow in the wind," Simon wrote. ‘Waves are breaking over the bow," he added.

Simon posted that people fell out of nearby boats. "Please pray for the lost," Simon wrote.

Rounds of thunderstorms are forecast to continue to impact the area into late week, complicating search and rescue efforts and keeping the danger of sudden squalls impacting mariners high in the Gulf of Mexico waters.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier, Spectrum, FuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios.

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