Hurricane Idalia Storms Into Southern Ports

Date: Wednesday, August 30th, 2023
Source: Sourcing Journal

Ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s expected landfall early Wednesday morning, ports in Florida are closing up shop while those in Georgia and the Carolinas are mulling their options—potentially leading to multi-day supply chain disruptions in the southeastern U.S.

Impacts from the hurricane are expected to include three to six inches of heavy rainfall on average, with some localized areas experiencing as much as eight inches, according to Jon Davis, chief meteorologist at Everstream Analytics.

Max winds are expected to be 100 mph, Davis said, or higher in areas near the landfall location in Florida’s “Big Bend” north of Tampa, where peak storm surges are forecast to exceed 12 feet. Inland locations will likely have winds at tropical storm strength ranging between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

“Business operations are likely to be severely disrupted for several days as workers experience difficulties making it to work due harsh travel conditions,” Davis told Sourcing Journal. “Additionally, loading/unloading of freight and intermodal ramp operations are likely to be disrupted/delayed in the impacted areas. Rail operations will also be impacted as some tracks may be flooded.”

As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Port Tampa Bay closed its waterways, but kept its landside operations open. The port has not yet indicated whether it will shutter landside operations.

“We will work with our fuel terminal operators and partners to ensure gas and other fuels move out of our port and to consumers as long as possible,” Port Tampa Bay said in a statement. “Additionally, port staff will continue to work round-the-clock so we can re-open to full operations as soon as safely possible to support the community and region we serve.”

The port is coordinating closely with federal, state and local agencies, as well as the maritime community to prepare for and respond to the impacts of Hurricane Idalia. The Coast Guard set port condition “Zulu,” an indicator that sustained gale force winds (39 to 54 miles per hour) will likely enter the Bay within 12 hours of the advisory. While port condition Zulu is in place, no vessels may enter or transit within these ports without permission of the Coast Guard.

On the other side of the state, the Port of Jacksonville was open and operational throughout much of Tuesday, but is expected to fully close by 5 p.m. The gateway will remain closed throughout Wednesday.

“Port operations are winding down. All inbound trucking lanes will close at 3 p.m. this afternoon,” said Chelsea Kavanagh, chief communications officer, the Port of Jacksonville, told Sourcing Journal. “We anticipate reopening on Thursday, pending storm impacts and once reopening safety protocols are completed.”

The Coast Guard set port condition “Yankee” effective at noon, which indicates that the sustained gale force winds are anticipated within 24 hours. “Jaxport” will enter port condition Zulu at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Because the Florida port’s terminal operators establish their own operating hours at their gated facilities, drivers seeking to pick up or drop off a load are encouraged to check with their terminal operator for their specific hours of operation. The port recommends shippers to reach out to their terminal operator to track their cargo.

The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) says it will have normal operating hours at all terminals Wednesday across its four ports: the Port of Charleston, the Port of Georgetown, Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon. SCPA will confirm Thursday’s opening time at Charleston and Georgetown by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Inland Port Dillon will operate normal hours on Wednesday and will open at 1 pm on Thursday, while Inland Port Greer’s gates and train service will operate as normal.

And the Port of Savannah will remain open and working Tuesday, although vessel activity will cease temporarily at night. The port is expected to remain open and working Wednesday based upon National Weather Service data, which forecasts sub-tropical winds for Savannah.

Truck gates and rail operations are expected to remain open and operating. To help customers during their storm preparation the Georgia gateway is offer extended gates for truckers today, in which truckers can pick up cargo by 8 p.m. and drop it off by 8:15 p.m.

Georgia’s other major seaport, the Port of Brunswick, will close Mayors Point, one of its two terminals, on Wednesday.

All North Carolina ports are open and operating on a normal schedule Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the Port of Morehead City will be closed for commercial operations and tenant access, while the Port of Wilmington will be closed to general cargo traffic and tenant access.

North Carolina State Ports Authority is planning for an operational assessment and communication by 10 am on Thursday, with a target of opening container operations and Wilmington’s South Gate at 1 p.m.

The Charlotte Inland Port will remain on a normal operating schedule.


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