Texas' Main Ports Reopen as Hurricane Nicholas Passes

Nicholas over the U.S. Gulf Coast, Sept. 14 (NOAA / GOES)

Published Sep 15, 2021 2:24 AM by The Maritime Executive

The major seaports on Texas' Gulf Coast are reopening quickly after the passage of Hurricane Nicholas, which came ashore near Matagorda in the early hours of Tuesday morning as a Category 1 storm. 

As a precautionary measure, the major ports in the region - Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston - modified or halted cargo operations briefly as the storm passed through the area. At Sector Houston-Galveston, about 75 nm to the east of Matagorda, the Captain of the Port temporarily prohibited inbound transits and berth-to-berth shifts for oceangoing merchant ships. Bunkering and lightering operations were placed on a watch notice for high winds but were otherwise allowed to continue. 

Port Houston closed all container terminal gates on Monday afternoon, well in advance of the storm's arrival. Due to power outages and continued poor weather, the port's terminals remained closed throughout the day on Tuesday. In an update, the port advised that vessel operations resumed at 1900 Tuesday evening and that terminal gates would reopen as usual on Wednesday morning. 

At the Port of Galveston, officials said that storm damage reports have been minimal so far, with only power outages reported at the port complex. Land-side cargo operations have been cleared to work, and water-side vessel operations will resume once the U.S. Coast Guard has completed channel safety surveys. 

The Port of Corpus Christi raised its hurricane readiness level on Monday, and the Coast Guard Captain of the Port issued standard orders for oceangoing ships to prepare for departure. However, those orders were rescinded on Monday evening, and the port's COTP status has returned to normal. The Coast Guard cautioned that mariners should still use "extreme caution" in South Texas waterways due to the possibility of hazards and debris from the storm.  

Nicholas quickly lost intensity after making landfall, but it continues to dump significant quantities of rain. It is moving slowly, and the National Hurricane Center warned that heavy rainfall and significant flash flood risks will continue along the Gulf Coast for several days. 

In Louisiana, which suffered a direct hit from Cat-4 Hurricane Ida just over two weeks ago, power utility crews are still hard at work despite the torrential rain brought by Nicholas. About 80,000 customers of the region's largest utility, Entergy, were still without power as of Tuesday evening. A spokesperson for the company told local news that Entergy's linemen are "certainly used to working back-to-back storms, and [are] going to continue working to restore power in South Louisiana."