Port of Wilmington Prepares for Hurricane Isaias

Isaias works its way north towards the Carolinas, August 3 (NOAA / GOES 16)

By The Maritime Executive 08-03-2020 01:59:46

As Hurricane Isaias passed by the coast of Florida, it weakened to tropical storm status and stayed far enough offshore that it caused little damage, sparing the state's eastern coastline. It is now headed for North Carolina, and it is expected to strengthen to hurricane status once more before making landfall. 

In anticipation of the storm, the Captain of the Port has set port condition "Zulu" at Wilmington and all other North Carolina coastal ports, indicating that tropical storm force winds are expected within 12 hours' time. The ports are closed and all port operations have been suspended. 

According to NC Ports, the Wilmington Container Gate opened briefly for truck operations on Monday morning. The gates for its general cargo and Morehead City facilities are closed, though tenants will have access until 1700 hours Monday. 

For boat and yacht owners, the Coast Guard recommends moving larger boats to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings. Boats that can be trailered should be pulled from the water and stored on high ground.

“The Coast Guard and its partners stand ready to conduct search and rescue efforts and respond to those in need,” said Capt. Matt Baer, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina and Captain of the Port of Wilmington. “Our immediate post-storm activities are focused on saving the lives of those in distress, reopening the ports to foster the flow of commerce and facilitate recovery operations, and assessing and mitigating environmental threats or damage from pollution.”

The Captain of the Port for the Port of Charleston, South Carolina has also set port condition "Zulu." All ship-to-shore operations are prohibited and the port is closed to entry or exit without permission. As is normal during storm conditions, the COTP has reminded vessel operators that ports are safest when the number of ships alongside is minimized.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Isaias has undergone a regular cycle of strengthening and weakening as it works its way northwards along the coast. It is currently blowing at just under 60 knots at surface level. A change in upper-atmosphere wind shear is expected to support strengthening to 60-65 knots before landfall, with stronger-than-average gusts. Heavy rains and storm surge of 2-5 feet will bring a risk of flooding along coastal areas of the Carolinas.