Hurricane Ida made landfall on the coast of southeast Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -August 29, 2021- as a strong category 4 hurricane. In its wake, more than one million Louisianians were left without power, partly due to the collapsing of a key transmission line over the Mississippi River. According to Entergy, the local power company, more than 2,000 miles of transmission lines were knocked out of service. Ida and the subsequent power outages caused navigation interruptions on the Lower Mississippi River and the related maritime industry.
Many facilities that had shut down just prior to Hurricane Ida’s passage had hoped to restart operations soon after but the uncertainty of power restoration kept those plans at bay. With Louisiana port facilities shut down, many in the agriculture and petrochemical industry kept a watchful eye on how long they would remain closed. Hurricane Ida caused considerable damage to Port of South Louisiana buildings and property. Few facilities came out unscathed, but most did not sustain the damage Cargill’s Reserve, Louisiana terminal experienced. Thankfully, outages were relatively short-lived and exports back-ups averted.
As damage was being assessed, slowly but surely, operations started to come online. By Wednesday, September 1, 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port set the port condition for the Lower Mississippi River to normal, with some navigational restrictions due to channel obstructions, grounded fleets, and wayward vessels. Port of South Louisiana’s Executive Regional Airport opened its runway just hours after Hurricane Ida cleared the area, into which several volunteer pilot associations from around the country flew with much needed and welcomed loads of supplies that were distributed locally. Later the same week, the airport was used by President Biden while surveying the damage to the River Region. Within a week, water was restored to St. John the Baptist Parish and within two weeks, for the most part, power was restored to industry and neighborhoods throughout the River Region. Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest U.S. privately owned deep-water crude terminal, fully reopened its marine operations for imports and exports within two weeks of the storm.
Organizationally, many Port of South Louisiana team members experienced damage or loss of homes and personal property. Their predicament necessitated a change in operating procedure, similar to that resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because a few of our office buildings were uninhabitable, some employees were relocated to other office buildings or worked remotely. Those who were physically unable to report to work due to personal issues were allowed to work remotely or take leave. One thing COVID-19 taught us is that flexibility is key, allowing us minimize disruptions.
The support to the River Region from our maritime family is heart-warming and, certainly, much appreciated! Once again and as usual, resident industry like Shell Oil Company, CRC, Marathon Oil Corporation, Greenfield Louisiana, and Valero stepped up to the plate to render aid to their respective community by providing supplies and/or services including, but not limited to, food resources, healthcare, fuel, base camps for electrical workers, and direct employee assistance. Port staff and their families, through contributions by American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) member ports, staff, and others, benefited from assistance by the organization’s Emergency Relief Fund, established following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to provide relief to many port employees throughout the hemisphere following natural disasters.
The heart and soul of the Port of South Louisiana are the people who work in each of its sectors. We are beyond thankful for everything they do to make the port one of the world’s best. As families, businesses, and communities in southeast Louisiana continue in the recovery effort, the Port of South Louisiana vows to continue to transfer cargo reliably and consistently and will do everything possible to offer assistance to our port personnel, the maritime community, our industrial partners, and the people of the River Region as we travel together on the road to recovery from Hurricane Ida.
D. Paul Robichaux
Judy B. Songy
P. Joey Murray, III