Photo courtesy of Port of Houston.
The port, which is a 25-mile-long complex of 150-plus private and public industrial terminals along the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel, has been closed since noon Friday, Aug. 25, in anticipation of the hurricane making land fall.
An alert notice on its website said all Port Houston facilities will remain closed on Aug. 29 and that port officials are monitoring the developing weather conditions to determine whether operations can safely resume on Aug. 30.
Harvey has brought over 25 inches of rain to portions of southeast Texas since Thursday night, the National Weather Service said. Another 10 to 20 inches is expected over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana. Storm totals in some locations may approach 50 inches.
About 24% of all U.S. wheat is exported through the Texas gulf at ports such as those in Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston. Just last week, 2.5 million bushels were exported from the region.
In 2015, the Port of Houston was ranked fourth in waterborne movement of agricultural trade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It exported and imported a total of 8.9 million tonnes of agricultural products that year.
The top commodities included bulk grains, candy, confections, and grain products. Bulk grains accounted for the largest share of exports at 3 million tonnes, or 46%.
Cargill said its terminal facility and official locations in Houston are closed. Preparations started well in advance of the hurricane, said Peter Stoddart, Cargill spokesman. The terminal facility primarily handles grain for export.
“Facilities are closed until its determined that it’s safe to reopen,” he said. “We have about 130 employees in five different businesses in Houston. All of our employees are very thankfully safe and accounted for.”
Stoddart said it’s not possible to say when the facilities might reopen, or what kind of impact their closure will have on operations.
Cargill will make a donation to local and national organizations to help with the hurricane’s aftermath. Cargill employees worldwide will also have an opportunity to contribute, he said.
“We will be able to resume normal operations once vessel and rail transportation are able to begin again,” said Jackie Anderson, ADM spokesperson. “We have confirmed that all of our employees and their families are safe; some of them have evacuated and others are dealing with power loss and flooding issues at their homes. We are currently providing assistance to our employees and their families.”
Ardent Mills said its community flour mill in the Houston suburb of Galena Park is temporarily closed until the roads are open so employees can safely travel to the facility. Ardent has reached out to all its team members and there are no reports of injuries.
"Despite Houston-area flooding, Ardent Mills’ extensive network of community mills continues to serve both flour and millfeed customer needs," the company said.
The Port of Corpus Christi, about 220 miles to the south, is ranked 17th in the waterborne movement of agricultural commodities, with a total movement of 2.5 million tonnes. That port was closed Thursday, Aug. 24, in anticipation of the hurricane and has remained closed due to a drilling ship that is blocking the channel.
The oil drilling ship broke free of its moorings on Saturday and sank one of the tugboats that was supposed to hold it in place. The ship will need to be removed and a survey completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the port can reopen.
Initial assessments of the port itself showed light to moderate damage and debris. Port officials hope to be back at normal operation levels by Sept. 4.