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Florida ports to close as Hurricane Dorian approaches

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The latest forecasts are predicting that Hurricane Dorian will remain offshore as it passes by the U.S. mainland early next week. This is more optimistic than earlier models, but it does not mean that the storm will not pose a real threat to infrastructure, freight movement and overall safety.

“Most forecast models have Dorian staying offshore of the U.S. mainland, moving from near Florida on Labor Day to near North Carolina by Friday,” FreightWaves Senior Meteorologist Nick Austin said. “Just how close Dorian gets to the coast is still up in the air. However, a landfall isn’t out of the question. In either case, the Port of Savannah could be a target for significant damage, and Dorian may still be a major hurricane when it passes by this critical freight hub.”

The Port of Savannah is the third-busiest port in the U.S., and any substantial disruption of operations could wreak havoc on freight movements throughout the eastern portion of the country.

As of 2:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the Category 5 storm was moving directly over the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. Maximum sustained winds reached as high as 185 mph, according to National Hurricane Center (NHC) data housed inside FreightWaves SONAR. The powerful storm was 185 miles east of West Palm Beach Florida. 

Dorian continues to be a slow moving storm, making its way west at 7 mph. This means the storm can hover over one area for a significant amount of time, dumping catastrophic levels of rain before moving on. 

SONAR Critical Events: Major Hurricane Dorian, September 1, 2019, 2:00 p.m. EDT.

Even if the U.S. mainland is spared from a direct hit, the consequences of Dorian passing by could be dire. 

“Keep in mind that a landfall – the eye actually coming ashore – is not required to cause devastation. A hurricane is not a dot on a map,” Austin said. “Even if Dorian ends up just a short distance offshore, hurricane-force winds can extend 30 to 50 miles outside the eye with tropical storm-force winds of 39 to 74 mph extending up to at least 100 miles away.”

The NHC has issued a hurricane watch and a storm surge watch in Florida for areas just north of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia-Brevard County line. A tropical storm warning is in effect for areas just north of Deerfield Beach to Sebastian Inlet, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for Lake Okeechobee, as well as areas north of Golden Beach to Deerfield Beach.

In anticipation of heavy winds, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida will be closing to all operations not specifically approved by the U.S. Coast Guard at 6:00 p.m. on September 1. 

“Port Everglades has received approval from the U.S. Coast Guard to allow petroleum trucks to continue making deliveries to retail gas stations until early Monday morning or until winds reach 35 mph for safety reasons,” an update from the Port reads. “Petroleum operators at Port Everglades make every effort to have ample supplies of gasoline available to retailers before, during and after an emergency. Port Everglades has gasoline reserves of at least one week stored on site.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has also order ports in Miami, Florida and Key West, Florida to halt all cargo operations and secure equipment ahead of strong winds. Sustained winds of at least 39 mph are possible within the next 24 hours, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Atlas Oil Company announced that it is sending more than 100 emergency fueling assets, drivers and mobile tanks into the path of the storm to ensure fuel is available where needed most.

“Our robust nationwide fuel supply and logistics network allows us to quickly align assets with drivers to bring critical gasoline and diesel fuel supply into a market,” Atlas President Bob Kenyon said in a media release. “We’re always the first to respond during national emergencies, capable of coordinating hundreds of assets at a moment’s notice and source fuel from outside markets when local supply becomes constrained to ensure vital community lifelines remain operational.”

FreightWaves SONAR can help industry professionals track the storm and its effects. The company has made SONAR available for free through Friday, September 6 in an effort to aid in relief logistics planning. Fill out this form to sign up for SONAR access.

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.