Recovery Begins After Michael

Ports, terminals and shipyards near Panama City, Fla., where Hurricane Michael made landfall October 10 as a Category 4 storm, are continuing to assess damages, make contact with employees and begin the long road to recovery, even as waterways along the Florida Panhandle have reopened to navigation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with industry leaders and port authorities, all worked together to survey waterways less than 24 hours after Hurricane Michael made landfall and begin to reconstitute the waterway.

“I very much appreciate the close-knit relationship this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has with both the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA,” said Col. Sebastien P. Joly, commander of the Corps’ Mobile District. “This enables our three federal agencies to quickly survey and reopen vital federal channels for navigation to aid in delivering much-needed supplies and minimize impact to the shipping industry.”

Joly said that crews prepositioned survey vessels at the Corps’ Irvington site office days before the storm made landfall in order to begin the survey process as quickly as possible.

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“We had exceptional planning, collaboration, partnerships and outstanding efforts by our Irvington surveyors, completing this critical work in record time,” said William Fuller, chief of Operations Division for the Mobile Engineer District.

By Thursday, October 11, less than a day after the storm, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway was open from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., westward. The Ports of Pensacola, Mobile, Pascagoula and Gulfport were all open. By Friday, October 12, Panama City Harbor was opened for daylight operations.

Fuller said that rapid reopening of the waterway was due to collaboration among federal agencies and industry partners.

“We shared all the available information and made sound decisions in the aftermath of the storm to do the greatest economic good in the least amount of time,” he said.

The Panama City Port Authority announced as of October 15 that, while the port sustained damage to many of its buildings, its docks, cranes and other terminal equipment were undamaged. Port officials expected to resume limited terminal service by the end of that week.

As of October 18, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, which has shipyards in the Panama City area, was still working to make contact with all its employees. Efforts to clean up the company’s shipyards and get them back up to speed are ongoing.

“It is our mission to clean up both shipyards and get them back up and running as quickly as possible, and we need the help of each employee to accomplish this task,” Eastern President Joey D’Isernia said in a message posted to the company’s website. “We are making great strides each day toward this goal and the shipyards are looking better all the time. Many of our employees are back at work and more are returning every day.

“Once you have secured the safety and security of yourself and your family, we would love to see you back at work helping with the cleanup effort so we can get back to building quality ships for our valued customers,” D’Isernia added.

Notable projects underway at Eastern include the U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter program, a series of new Staten Island Ferries, and a factory trawler for Glacier Fish Company. Following Hurricane Michael’s landfall, a dramatic photo emerged of the recently-completed factory trawler North Star on its starboard side in St. Andrews Bay, overturned by the storm.