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HOUSTON-When word came last Saturday that Tropical Storm Edouard could score a direct hit on Galveston and potentially Houston, the Port of Houston Authority didn’t hesitate. They activated protocols to ensure the safety and protection of port personnel and cargo.

Although the storm took a right turn at almost the last minute and came ashore on the upper Texas coast, the port’s security and emergency operations manager William Crews says the port authority, state emergency forces and port coordination team, which consists of port-affiliated industries and organizations, weren’t taking any chances. “With Eduord, it was recommended we take preparations for a Category 1 hurricane and we followed that,” Crews says.

As of deadline, the ports of Houston and Galveston remained closed under port condition ZULU, a US Coast Guard designation issued 12 hours before a tropical storm makes landfall. ZULU means gale force winds are expected, cargo needs to be secured and ports closed to all inbound and outbound traffic. Crews says the Houston port most likely will move into recovery mode today if the storm is no longer considered a threat.

In addition to the Coast Guard’s port condition designations, the Houston authority relies on information from the port coordination team. Niels A. Aalund, vice president of maritime affairs for Houston-based West Gulf Maritime Association, says the team provides updates, solutions to problems and general assistance during a tropical storm. “We activated the PCT’s efforts earlier last week, even though Eduord was a ways off,” he says.

Crews says the policies and systems have proven successful in the case of Edouard and also with Hurricane Dolly, which came ashore on South Padre Island, TX in late July. There are, however, lessons that can be learned in each situation. “There is always going to be one or two items you didn’t think about,” Crews tells GlobeSt.com.

In the most recent storm, the challenge involved housing personnel overnight at the port. “In the case of this particular storm, it was originally predicted to make landfall at 4 a.m.,” Crews explains. “We didn’t want to take the chance of staff not being able to make it to the port to do their jobs so we brought them in on Monday evening.”

The lessons learned with Edouard also involved ensuring the right supplies were available for the extra personnel. Crews says it’s something the port authority will take into account next time. “It was a matter of knowing how many people would be brought in and if you’d have enough candy bars to feed all of them,” he adds.

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