›› Galveston port closure backs up cargo ships; cruises still in limbo.
Hurricane holds about 20,000 passengers from port of Galveston
As many as a half-dozen commercial cargo ships have joined four cruise ships stuck at sea waiting for the green light to dock at the Port of Galveston.
About 20,000 cruise ship passengers are idling offshore along with commercial ships that include roll-on/roll-off carriers, two grain ships and a few bulk carriers, said interim port director Peter Simons.
“The four cruise ships — two of which were due (Saturday) — those are everyone’s highest priority,” he said.
Officials shut down the port Friday, leaving thousands of vacationers with no place to land as Hurricane Harvey loomed at sea.
The storm also forced the U.S. Coast Guard to close multiple ports along the Texas Gulf Coast, including those at Houston, Galveston, Texas City, Freeport and Corpus Christi.
On Saturday morning, the Port of Brownsville reopened, while port personnel started assessing the damage in Corpus Christi.
Galveston port officials said Friday that the cruise ships might not be able to dock until Tuesday or Wednesday, but Simons said Saturday afternoon that he was “a little more optimistic.”
Two of the ships in limbo — Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor — were set to dock Saturday and will stop in New Orleans instead, according to Carnival spokeswoman Christine de la Huerta.
“Guests who wish to terminate their cruise at that point and disembark in New Orleans may do so,” de la Huerta said in statement. “We are strongly encouraging them to remain on board as we intend to return the ships to Galveston as soon as feasible.”
The Carnival Breeze spent the night in Mexico and was slated to leave
Saturday for Galveston, although the company did not offer an update on progress Saturday afternoon.
Vanessa Gurrusquieta of Itasca, near Fort Worth, said she and her family of eight were among those stuck on the Carnival Breeze. But she said she wasn’t worried about the detour.
“This is an extra day in paradise,” she said.
And even in the wake of the hurricane, it was mostly smooth sailing.
“It’s pretty calm,” she said. “A little rocking but not much.”
Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas stayed behind the storm with plans to return to port Sunday, officials said.
“We’re working with the Coast Guard and the pilots and the cruise line to try to minimize the impact of the storm on the cruise ships,” Simons said. “We’re all really kind of subject at the end of the day to the mercy of the weather.”
Overnight winds and rain pounded the island into Saturday morning, sparking a string of tornado and flash flood warnings and leaving thousands without electricity.
Unconfirmed reports of tornado touchdowns flooded into the National Weather Service. Near Broadway and Seawall, wind ripped the golden arches off a McDonald’s sign. Across the street, gusts pushed over a stop sign and tore down a billboard.
“That used to say Whataburger up there,” said longtime island resident Colburt Butler. “It says no burger now.”
But an afternoon respite brought calmer skies, and islanders flocked back to the the beach, walking dogs and jogging.
Although the first rounds of storms left the island residents unimpressed, forecasters warned to expect more bad weather overnight.
City officials said Saturday that prolonged flooding could cause problems getting supplies to the island, but city manager Brian Maxwell expressed confidence about the present situation.
“We’re holding our own on the island,” he said. “We’re good.”
Barbara Joshua was one of the three guests who took shelter at the American Red Cross in Galveston as of Saturday afternoon.
A strong gust of wind brought down the arch from a McDonald’s sign at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Seawall Boulevard in Galveston.
The high-traffic cruise terminals at the Port of Galveston are closed until further notice, leaving thousands of passengers on four cruise ships stuck in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm forced the U.S. Coast Guard to close ports in Houston, Freeport and Corpus Christi.
Hurricane Harvey brought heavy rain and strong winds to Galveston on Saturday, destroying the roof of a Citgo gas station. The dangerous conditions are keeping cruise ships and cargo ships from the island until further notice.