Port Panama City operations recover amid hurricane repairs

Port Panama City operations recover amid hurricane repairs


Port Panama City.

The port's east terminal (above) was closer to the storm's eyewall and sustained more-severe damage. Photo credit: Port Panama City.

Port Panama City will be repairing damage from Hurricane Michael for a while, according to Executive Director Wayne Stubbs, but he added "We were fortunate. None of our employees were injured, although a few lost their homes or had to vacate." The first vessel returned to the US Gulf Coast port one week after the storm hit on October 10. Cargo was temporarily diverted to nearby ports, including Tampa and Mobile, but all had returned as of mid-November.

The port's primary facilities at the west terminal sustained relatively minor damage; it was a "mixed bag," Stubbs said, including lost doors, canopies, and skylights, and some damage to the port's container terminal. A port-owned distribution center and buildings on the port's east terminal were closer to the storm's eyewall and sustained more-severe damage. A wood pellet warehouse lost about 30 feet of roof, which has since been replaced, and a new forest products terminal sustained structural damage — something that will take several months to fix completely.  

Oceaneering and Berg Steel Pipe, the port's two largest industrial tenants, also sustained damage but are back in operation, Stubbs said.

Road and rail access

"During the first two weeks it was very difficult for trucks to get in and out. A lot of signals were out," Stubbs said. The streets were littered with telephone poles, and the port's short-line rail, Bayline (Genesee & Wyoming), was covered with downed trees; also, railcars were "laid over on their tracks." However, road anhttp://unitedwaynwfl.org/d rail access are rapidly improving, and the port is "close to normal," with the exception of the damage at the east terminal, he said.

According to recently published research, Hurricane Michael was a compact but unusually severe storm that reached Category 4 in size, including 155-mile-per-hour, eyewall winds. The storm created a wall of water as high as 20.6 feet in some areas, including waves and storm surge, which decimated coastal towns.

"The community, especially east of Panama City Beach, is just really beat up," Stubbs said. "Lots of folks are scrambling." The American Association of Port Authorities has donated $33,500 in emergency relief to port employees who lost their homes or had major damage, he said. The Port of Tampa also sent a team to Panama City to help survey bulkheads and assess damage after the storm, which was “a great help.”

Those seeking to donate funds to help those in need in the Port Panama City area can click on http://unitedwaynwfl.org/ for much information. For this effort, 100 percent of donations will help local residents affected by Hurricane Michael. 

Contact Janet Nodar at janet.nodar@ihsmarkit.com and follow her on Twitter: @janet_nodar.