With tropical storm Gordon expected to strengthen and make landfall as a hurricane Tuesday night, the Coast Guard and maritime industry moved to complete preparations along the north-central Gulf coast.

The Coast Guard set port condition Yankee for its New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., sectors, closing ports to inbound traffic greater than 500 gross tons. At 7 a.m. Tuesday the Coast Guard declared port condition Zulu for Mobile, essentially closing the port to vessel traffic, and followed suit in midafternoon for Gulfport and Pascagoula, Miss.

With terminal and facilities preparations complete the Alabama State Port Authority sent non-essential personnel home so they could prepare for the storm.

“While it is uncertain this storm will reach hurricane status, we take these storms quite seriously,” said Jimmy Lyons, port authority director and CEO, in announcing the shutdown.

Operations ended before noon Tuesday as the Port of Mobile prepared for tropical storm Gordon. Ken Hocke photo.

Operations ended before noon Tuesday as the Port of Mobile prepared for tropical storm Gordon. Ken Hocke photo.

“High winds and storm surge could impact equipment and operations if steps are not taken. Our personnel have been busy this morning tying down cranes and moving equipment either to higher ground or under cover.  We’re about as prepared as we can be.”

Lyons said the port would reopen to operations as soon as the storm passes and preliminary assessments for any damage are completed, including a Coast Guard assessment of post-storm channel conditions and aids to navigation.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami set a hurricane warning from the mouth of the Pearl River on the Mississippi-Louisiana border, east to the Alabama-Florida border. A tropical storm warning extended from around Destin, Fla., west to Grand Isle, La.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, NHC forecasters reported Gordon had sustained winds around 70 mph, and was moving northwest to the north-central Gulf coast at 15 mph. Some additional strengthening is still possible, and
Gordon could become a hurricane before landfall occurs along the north-central Gulf Coast this evening.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has activated its Hurricane Response Team to monitor offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf as they evacuate platforms and rigs in preparation for the storm. As of 11:30 a.m. central time Tuesday 54 production platforms had been evacuated, accounting for 7.86% of the 687 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, BSEE officials said.

One non-dynamically positioned drilling rig was evacuated, and one dynamically positioned mobile rig was moved away from the storm’s path. In all BSEE officials calculated 9.23% of Gulf oil production was shut-in as a precaution, and 9.06% of natural gas production.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.