Shipping and ports from the states of Virginia south to Georgia were seriously affected in mid-September by Hurricane Florence, which claimed 17 lives.
As warnings were issued by weather centres of the approach of the Force 4 hurricane, ships were told to take precautions and many put to sea to ride out the worst of the slowly-moving hurricane. From Sept 13, ports began to be closed to all shipping.
The hurricane made landfall on Sept 14 and between then and Sept 19, the US, Coast Guard (USCG) air and surface crews had rescued 1,103 people and 419 pets. Working with local county partners, the crews had been able to assess and clear 765 miles of road and assess 23 bridges and 14 dams. Assessments at North Carolina ports had identified more than 100 problems with aids to navigation at Wilmington and Morehead City.
On Sept 16, the USCG reported its following responses in the coastal portion of North Carolina, the worst hit area with flooding from the torrential rain and the sea surge and damage to the infrastructure:
- The USCG helicopter crews from across the Service had rescued 57 people and eight pets since Hurricane Florence began;
- Its shallow water response teams were clearing roads in four counties to enable emergency crews and shallow water vessels to reach those in distress;
- There were more than 3,000 Coast Guard personnel responding to the hurricane;
- A total of 35 shallow water rescue boat teams was deployed in the state;
- The USCG was conducting air operations based out of Elizabeth City and Savannah;
- The ports of Wilmington and Morehead City and Georgetown, in South Carolina, had been closed and all port operations had been suspended. The closure of a port is designated Port Condition Zulu. The USCG Captain of the Port reopened Georgetown on Sept 15 without any restrictions;
- The ports of Charleston, South Carolina, and Hampton Roads, Virginia, had been reopened but mariners were warned to take extreme caution;
- Seven USCG buoy-tending cutters had been directed to North Carolina to survey and open the ports of Wilmington and Morehead City as well as the North Carolina ferry system;
USCG helicopter crews from the Savannah Air Station had searched the entire Georgia and South Carolina coast without finding anyone in need. On Sept 16, these nine aircraft were to be deployed to Myrtle Beach to begin operating in the affected areas of North Carolina.