Mermentau River & Lake Arthur: Our Ride Went Off with a BANG!


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When I normally report to The Watercraft Journal you can pretty much bet it’s a few words and pictures or video produced from a day spent on the water. This is going to be different. Sure, a ride was involved, but what I report today is not about the ride. This time, the ski presented our group the ability to make a report for the local news; read on…

It was the second ride in as many days, with today’s ride taking place on the lower Mermentau River and Lake Arthur in south-central Louisiana. With the skis off the trailer we headed due south down the beautiful Mermentau and eventually into Lake Arthur. It was while we were having lunch that an afternoon thunderstorm blew across the lake. Nastier than average, the storm unleashed torrents of rain and a dazzling array of lightning bolts to match.

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Yep – something has definitely gone wrong on the other side of Lake Arthur.

As the storm moved on and the skies cleared a large plume of smoke was billowing from the far west bank. Then came what sounded like fireworks. We waited for the final few drops of rain to clear out and we mounted the bikes to check out the scene.

As it turns out, an unmanned oil well site took a direct hit of lightning. Everyone knows oil and water don’t mix. As it turns out, oil (and gas, under pressure) and lightning don’t do so well together, either. The pops we had heard earlier were 25′ tall holding tanks exploding.

On location and feeling the heat.

Not long after the fire started, the local authorities had evacuated community residents within a one mile cautionary zone – which obviously didn’t apply to us. Near the bank and taking pictures, we could feel the heat from 400 yards away. Despite the distance, it was too far for some of us: Shawn took a side trip via a local boathouse and pier and had soon closed the distance to half in order to record a few seconds of live video.

From 200 yards away, gas and oil belch and flare as high as 75 feet into the air. For all the damage to the site, it was later reported by the local news that no loss occurred to residential property nor were there any reports of injuries. In other words, all-in-all, it was a good ride.

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Heading for home beneath the Hwy 14 bridge, the fire still rages from just over a mile away.

“ Mermentau River & Lake Arthur:Our Ride Went Off with a BANG!” was originally published by Billy Crews Jr. on July 30, 2015 and can be read in its original form at PWC Trailfinder.

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Billy Crews Jr.

Born in south Louisiana and raised on bass fishing in the Atchafalaya Spillway, Bill Crews, Jr. has been at home on the water for most of his life. Introduced to PWCing in 2006, he's been recording his trail rides (and finding new ones) via his website PWCTrailfinder.com ever since. When not stuck behind the desk, he can usually be found on the water, in the woods, or in a cave - camera in hand.

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