The Road to Recovery for U.S. Ports in the Southeast After Hurricane Irma
Several Southeastern ports across the United States felt the wrath of Hurricane Irma this past weekend. Traveling northwest and making landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4, Hurricane Irma turned east to make a second landfall on Marco Island on Florida’s West Coast on Sunday, unleashing 130mph wind gusts and widespread damage. All ports were closed as power outages and regional flooding affected many areas. On Monday morning, Irma weakened to a tropical storm and continued northward through Florida as the U.S. Coast Guard was able to make its assessments and allow the ports to resume some operations.
Florida’s largest port, Port Tampa Bay, suffered “very minimal” damage, port officials said in an interview with CNNMoney. Port Tampa Bay reopened on Tuesday afternoon to receive fuel shipments to help alleviate the gas shortage experienced throughout the state.
On the Atlantic side, PortMiami and the port tunnel were reopened on Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard cleared truck and gate operations for the Seaboard Marine container terminal, but truck and gate operations remained closed for POMTOC and SFCT container terminals until Wednesday. According to port officials, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration surveyors searched the harbor for debris with side scan sonar. Several sunken sailboats caused a delay in the port’s opening, but the U.S. Coast Guard let ships come in late Tuesday afternoon while keeping the south channel closed. All port operations were reported back to normal on Wednesday.
It was a different story at the Port of Jacksonville (JaxPort) on Tuesday as it remained closed under condition Zulu – gale force winds with all ports closed to all inbound and outbound traffic – while the U. S. Coast Guard assessed port conditions. Records set in 1965 during Hurricane Dora were exceeded in Jacksonville, Fla., and along the St. Johns River with combined tidal and rain flooding. Per Mayor Lenny Curry, 365 people in Jacksonville neighborhoods had to be rescued from flooding. The JaxPort gates and terminals were reopened late Tuesday while it remained closed to vessel traffic. The JaxPort Authority instructed its employees to return to work on Wednesday, and shallow water vessels were permitted pending further assessment by the U. S. Coast Guard. On late Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard officially reopened JaxPort to all vessel traffic.
The Georgia Ports Authority, which operates both port facilities in Savannah and Brunswick, reported no water or structural damage as a result of Irma at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal. Vessel operations resumed on Tuesday, while gate and terminal operations reopened Wednesday morning. The Brunswick Terminal, one of the busiest roll-on/roll-off ports in the nation, remains closed to gate operations and vessel traffic as of Thursday afternoon until power and road access is restored and further facility assessments are completed.
The staff at Doolittle & Tucker, P.A. are relieved that everyone remained safe and continue to assist in the recovery efforts resulting from Hurricane Irma here in Jacksonville, Florida.