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Port of New Orleans reopens following Barry

Image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

Updated to reflect latest status of Norfolk Southern’s rail operations

The Port of New Orleans has reopened after Tropical Storm Barry swept through the region, although officials still stress dangerous flooding conditions for area residents.

Port conditions are normal as of 6 a.m. CT on July 14, enabling vessel movement into and out of the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans, albeit with some restrictions, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Those restrictions can be found here

The Coast Guard said early preparation and communication between federal, state, local and industry partners helped minimize the potential for damage at the port.

“Even while the storm was still approaching landfall, we were making preparations to reopen our ports and restore critical infrastructure and marine transportation systems as quickly as possible after it passed,” said Capt. Kristi Luttrell, Sector New Orleans commander for the Coast Guard. “Along with the safety of the public and first responders, restoration of maritime commerce was one of our top priorities.”

The Port of New Orleans said all flood gates along the Mississippi River should be open by the afternoon of July 14, with the port’s administration building expected to reopen on July 15 with regular schedules.

While the port is operating as normal, some roads that were closed on July 12 are still closed as of July 14, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation. Up-to-date information on those roads is available here and an interactive map is available here.

The area’s rail network also has some embargoes in place, but that could also change later this week. Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) had placed embargoes on traffic interchanging at New Orleans, while BNSF (NYSE: BRK) said customers should expect delays and extended travel times for traffic in and out of New Orleans. Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) said on July 14 that its operations were returning to normal in New Orleans, although it will continue to work with interline partners to detour interchange traffic over alternate gateways where possible to minimize the impact. The railroad said shipments to and through New Orleans would experience delays of 24 to 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said life-threatening flooding rain will persist into July 15 as Barry heads into northwestern Louisiana, bringing potential flash floods. Widespread rainfall of 4 or more inches is expected, with areas of significantly higher rain leading to rapid water rises, the Center said on July 14. tweeted that over 150,000 residents and businesses were without power on the morning of July 14.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on July 14 that he activated 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard in response to the storm. The state’s Emergency Operations Center is also fully activated, he said.

“This storm has our attention,” Edwards said. “While most of the rain right now is in the Gulf, we know that it will be coming ashore and impacting a large portion of the state. We are asking that everyone stay vigilant and be safe. Monitor your local media and heed instructions from your local elected officials. The people of Louisiana are resilient, and while the next few days may be challenging, I am confident that we are going to get through this.”Tropical Storm Barry was downgraded from hurricane status after making landfall on July 13.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.