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Ports closing as Hurricane Sally closes in on Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast landfall likely Monday night or early Tuesday

Port of Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Larry Syverson/Flickr)

Tropical Storm Sally became a hurricane Monday afternoon, with sustained winds reaching 90 mph.

As Sally becomes better organized and possibly stronger before landfall, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) decided to issue port condition Zulu for the ports of Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; as well as Pensacola, Florida.

The USCG sets port condition Zulu when weather advisories indicate that sustained gale force winds — 39-54 mph (34-47 knots) — from a tropical cyclone are predicted to begin at a port within 12 hours.

Under port condition Zulu, all port waterfront operations are suspended, with the exception of final preparations that are expressly permitted by the captain of the port (COTP). These final preparations are necessary to ensure the safety of the ports and their facilities. Coast Guard teams will conduct final port assessments.

Most ports in Louisiana are open with restrictions, but this could change depending on Sally’s exact track.

SONAR Critical Events: Tropical Storm Sally, Monday, Sep. 14, 2020, 2 p.m. EDT

At 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Hurricane Sally was centered about 160 miles southeast of Biloxi. It will continue to meander in the northern Gulf of Mexico before making landfall Monday night or early Tuesday morning. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is forecasting landfall to occur somewhere between the mouth of the Mississippi River/New Orleans metropolitan area and Pensacola. Some places damaged by Hurricane Laura just two and half weeks ago are in Sally’s potential path.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border, as well as for Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, including New Orleans. The NHC has also issued a storm surge warning from Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border, in addition to Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, Lake Borgne and Mobile Bay. Some areas could be hit with 8 to 12 feet of storm surge.

Torrential rainfall and dangerous storm surge will not only affect freight movement at ports, but could also delay supply chains on the roads as Sally gets closer to the coast. With 12 to 24 inches of total rainfall possible through midweek in the hurricane warning area, flash flooding could cause potential roadblocks on interstates and other trucking routes.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.