MOBILE, Ala. – Surveying efforts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District quickly restored navigation channels in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. This included the Port of Pensacola, Fla. and nearly 300 miles of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Teams consisting of USACE, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, waterway users, and port authorities began calls on Sunday, Oct. 7, following Gulf Coast Hurricane Protocol, and continued through the week.
“I very much appreciate the close-knit relationship the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has with both the U.S. Coast Guard and the NOAA,” said Col. Sebastien P. Joly, commander of USACE 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.”
Survey crews at the Irvington Site Office prepared vessels days before the storm the hit for the quickest response possible. Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle Wednesday, Oct. 10, making landfall as the strongest storm of the season.
“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, USACE Mobile District.
Irvington survey crews were dispatched Thursday morning to initiate surveys to determine how safe channels and harbors were for ships, bringing fuel and other required items for impacted areas. One of the crews surveyed the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, starting at the Alabama/Florida state line and a second crew surveyed the Panama City Harbor.
By Thursday evening, coordination with Gulf Coast Hurricane Protocol members and surveying efforts allowed the Port of Pensacola and an additional 55 miles of GIWW to reopen. Surveys continued on the GIWW to Panama City on Friday and were completed at Panama City Harbor.
By the end of the day, GIWW was open for 293 miles until the channel was blocked by a downed power line. Panama City Harbor was opened for daylight use only.
Due to the detailed discussions on the Gulf Coast Hurricane Protocol calls, engineering judgment, and collaboration with all team members, navigation channels were quickly restored after Hurricane Michael, said Fuller.
“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,” said Fuller.