US South Atlantic ports curtail operations as storm approaches

US South Atlantic ports curtail operations as storm approaches

A map of the projected path of Tropical Storm Hermine. The encircled "S" and "H" symbols indicate the storm's expected strength at that time, with "S" being tropical storm and "H" being hurricane.

The Georgia Ports Authority will close its Savannah and Brunswick terminals and the Jacksonville Port Authority plans a delayed noon opening Friday ahead of approaching Tropical Storm Hermine.

At Charleston, the South Carolina State Ports Authority said it expects to close the empty container yards at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals at noon Friday, but that other work will continue as long as conditions allow.

The ports’ actions are in response to Tropical Storm Hermine, which forecasters said was likely to strengthen to hurricane force before making landfall around midnight Thursday near the eastern end of the Florida panhandle.

The storm is expected to move northeast across the eastern end of the Florida panhandle and into Georgia and South Carolina, and continue up the US East Coast next week. Officials warned of high winds, rains of up to 15 inches, and flooding.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott placed 51 counties under a state of emergency and ordered the closure at noon Thursday of state government offices in those counties, including the state capital, Tallahassee.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 56 counties. The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency warned of heavy rains, flooding, tornadoes, and power outages.

"Out of an abundance of caution, and for the safety of our employees, local residents, customers, and service providers, we are closing our facilities until the storm has passed," said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. Savannah’s Garden City container terminal will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, using a single truck gate.

The Port of Charleston’s truck gates will be open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Following the Labor Day holiday, the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals will have extended gate hours until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The South Carolina State Ports Authority said that because of planned system maintenance, its scspa.com website will be shut down from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday.

Contact Joseph Bonney at joseph.bonney@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.