Hurricanes affect inland rivers too

Hurricane Florence dumped an estimated 40 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and caused damage as far as 90 miles inland. While most consider hurricanes to be primarily coastal events, the storms also have significant effects on the inland rivers. These include complications for mariners and marine operations, not to mention the problems associated with flooding in river communities.

In early September, Tropical Storm Gordon came directly up from the Gulf of Mexico saturating the Ohio River Valley with rainfall. Upwards of five to 10 inches of rain fell in two days causing the Ohio River to rise a staggering 22 feet.

As marine operators, we are faced with the effects from weather on a daily basis. We have grown accustomed to such complications as a function of doing business. My planning under normal weather focuses on operating our vessels on beautiful, calm waters. I am in the passenger vessel business and my responsibility is to provide an enjoyable experience for my passengers on the river. But when a hurricane or high water arrives, everything gets turned upside down.

Calm water turns into a muddy, ugly mess. Trees, dead animals and debris, all start flowing down river. The current starts to build from almost nothing, to four or five mph or even more. In addition, our vessels have vertical clearance challenges and our parking lot often quickly gets submerged under water. Needless to say, it is a stressful and unsettling time for everyone in our organization as well as for those in communities up and down the river.

All of us who ply the rivers are faced with vexing challenges associated with bad weather. As an industry we cope the best we can and push on. Almost daily, I ask myself if the added stress of marine operations, weather and all that is associated with it, is really worth it. Then I answer with a resounding “Yes.”

I bet that many of you have asked yourself the same question and have answered it the same way. We are a dedicated bunch.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or

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