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Joint Hurricane Team 2020 Planning Session To Be Held As Webinar May 26

Leaders from throughout the maritime industry, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, National Weather Service and commercial operators, will gather virtually May 26 for the 2020 Gulf Inland Waterways Joint Hurricane Team pre-hurricane season planning session. Due to the national response to COVID-19, the meeting will be held as a webinar.

The Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA) coordinates the annual meeting, during which waterway stakeholders gather to review the Gulf Coast Inland Waterways Joint Hurricane Response Protocol, a plan of action for how industry and local, state and federal agencies can partner to respond to and recover from storms during hurricane season.

Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host the meeting via the GoToWebinar platform.

“As always, we’ll discuss how the protocol works,” GICA President Jim Stark said. “This is industry’s effort to assist in recovering and reopening waterways after a storm passes.”

The meeting, set to be held from 9 to 11 a.m. May 26, will feature forecasting for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, along with reports from Corps districts and Coast Guard sectors from the Gulf Coast and the Eighth Coast Guard District.

Stark said waterway stakeholders should be ready for an unprecedented hurricane season, due to restrictions in place due to the virus.

“Communication is going to be very important this year if we’re still faced with social distancing measures,” Stark said.

Also on the agenda for the webinar is the planned 60-day closure of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock (IHNC) and the reinstatement of the “alternate route” down the Mississippi River, through Baptiste Collette and across Chandeleur Sound to Gulfport, Miss. The alternate route adds about 85 miles to the typical trip between New Orleans and Gulfport along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. In total, from New Orleans down the river and across the sound measures about 151 miles, Stark said. The route was first used in 2016 during another extended closure at IHNC. Stark said the 2016 use of the alternate route went very smoothly, thanks to careful coordination between federal agencies and industry, including virtual aids to navigation, dredging in Baptiste Collette and spot weather forecasting by the National Weather Service. Also of benefit that year: a quiet hurricane season.

“I’m not sure we’ll get away with that this year, but we’ll do our best to be prepared no matter what,” Stark said.

Registration and login information for the meeting will be posted on the GICA website, www.gicaonline.com.

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