As Hurricane Irma approaches Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm, NOAA is positioning personnel and hydrographic survey assets to help speed the resumption of shipping post storm. In the wake of a hurricane, NOAA’s personnel and survey assets provide essential information when ports need to quickly but safely re-open, limiting significant economic losses caused by prolonged disruptions to the maritime transportation system.
NOAA’s Southeast Navigation Manager Kyle Ward is working with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) District 7 providing information on the location of NOAA vessels and their readiness. He is also working with USCG Sector San Juan to determine priority ports in the predicted path of the hurricane. Eastern Gulf Coast Navigation Manager Tim Osborn is standing by in Lafayette, LA, after finishing up Hurricane Harvey response efforts in Corpus Christi. Mid-Atlantic Navigation Manager Lt. Ryan Wartick is standing by in Norfolk, VA, after assisting with Hurricane Harvey response in the Houston-Galveston area.
NOAA Coast Survey’s navigation response teams (NRT)—small vessels with three-person crews—have been strategically positioned in the region and are ready to respond as Irma approaches Puerto Rico and heads toward Florida. NRT 2 (homeported in Fernandina Beach, FL) demobilized after Hurricane Harvey response efforts and is headed to the NOAA Disaster Response Center (DRC) in Mobile, AL. NRT 5 (homeported in New London, CT) will be traveling south toward Florida by the end of the week once essential survey equipment is installed on the vessel.
For areas like Puerto Rico, where NRTs can’t reach, Coast Survey sends the mobile integrated survey team (MIST). Currently, the MIST equipment is being sent to the DRC from Galveston and will be ready to ship to Puerto Rico. Coast Survey’s small autonomous underwater vehicle can potentially be used in Puerto Rico as well. All positioned survey assets are fully staffed.
NOAA’s two large hydrographic survey vessels in the region are also ready for response. NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler is in Jacksonville, FL, standing by and NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is in Charleston, SC, standing by. NOAA has several hydrographic survey vessels already under contract that have the potential to respond if needed.
Update 9/7/17: Given the most current storm track, NOAA ships Ferdinand Hassler and Thomas Jefferson are seeking shelter in Norfolk, VA, and will return south immediately after passage of the storm.
Updated NOS Asset Location Image 9/9/17:
NOAA’s nowCOAST™ system contains the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) potential storm surge flooding map which depicts the risk associated with coastal storm surge flooding resulting from tropical cyclones.