Mid-Atlantic Ports Adapt as Hurricane Florence Approaches

The eye of Hurricane Florence as seen from space (NASA)

By The Maritime Executive 09-13-2018 07:26:24

On September 13, as Hurricane Florence neared the Carolinas, the Port of Virginia reopened shoreside cargo operations at all of its cargo terminals for one day. The port's marine operations remain closed by order of the Captain of the Port for Hampton Roads, who declared a halt to all inbound and outbound vessel traffic at noon on Wednesday. 

"The forecast . . . through Thursday night, September 13 offers manageable conditions for cargo operations," the port wrote in an update Wednesday morning, explaining its decision to reopen its truck gates. "With safety as our primary concern, we are striving to protect the commercial interests of our customers and partners."

With heavy rain and tropical storm force winds forecast for Friday, the port will close five terminals once more. Three of these terminals will reopen with limited hours on Saturday and Sunday, including Virginia International Gateway, the largest privately-owned container terminal in the United States. 

As of Thursday evening, Florence was located about 100 miles off the coast of North Carolina, and it has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane. It is headed for Wilmington, North Carolina, where winds are expected to peak at 85 mph at about 0600 hours Friday morning. Sustained wind speed in Norfolk, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina are not expected to rise above 40 mph - but the storm will still bring extreme rainfall far inland and a dangerous storm surge.

The ports of Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina will be closed until Saturday at the earliest. The port authority for North Carolina says that re-opening information will be announced once Hurricane Florence has passed and port facilities have been evaluated. 

At the port of Charleston, the port authority for South Carolina has closed all operations until Saturday at the earliest. Vessel and gate operations could resume Sunday, depending on conditions, and a full reopening is expected on Monday. 

Further to the south, operations at the Port of Savannah, Georgia continued uninterrupted, with some modifications to the port's export receiving policies in order to accelerate cargo flow.