US Gulf Ports Reopen After Isaac

US Gulf Ports Reopen After Isaac

Ports along the central Gulf of Mexico have reopened after sustaining what officials said was minimal damage from Hurricane Isaac’s winds and heavy rains.

At New Orleans, the Coast Guard reopened the Mississippi River to cargo vessels and allowed the cruise ship Carnival Elation to return to the port a day after its scheduled Thursday arrival. Terminal operators also expected to resume operations today.

Port officials reported no flooding and “very minimal” wind damage to facilities, but substantial wind-blown damage to the port’s administration building on the riverfront.

“We were very fortunate during this entire storm event,” said Gary LaGrange, the port’s president and CEO.

The Port of Gulfport, Miss., had “minor damage,” primarily from at least 12 inches of wind-driven rain, but planned to work cargo ships this weekend, Port Director Don Allee said. He said the port expected to receive Coast Guard clearance today for ship traffic.

Before the storm, the port took extensive precautions, including the shifting of all containers inland. “We probably moved 1,300 to 1,400 pieces of equipment off the port,” Allee said. Port customers also held back containers at inland points.

Hurricane Isaac hit during low tide and did not produce a storm surge approaching the scale of Hurricane Katrina, a more powerful storm that battered Gulfport with a 24-foot storm surge.

Industrial and cargo tenants along New Orleans’ Industrial Canal, hit hard by Katrina seven years ago, reported minimal damage and no flooding.

Since Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers has installed a new flood protection system, including the Seabrook Floodgate Structure and the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, which were both closed for the first time.

Water levels in the inner harbor area rose to only 3.5 feet above sea level, compared with more than 12 feet in past storms including hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Gustav in 2008.

“The U.S. Army Corps’ flood protection system worked remarkably well, keeping industrial assets and port tenants’ facilities safe and protecting life and property,” LaGrange said.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JosephBonney.