Winds are expected to reach gale strength by Saturday. National Hurricane Center graphic.

Tropical Storm Ophelia Prompts Expected Closure of Port of Baltimore

The Port of Baltimore will most likely be shut down beginning Friday night, Sept. 22, because of gale-force winds expected to move in with Tropical Storm Ophelia this weekend.

The Captain of the Port for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region set port condition Yankee Thursday night, meaning that gale-force winds will be possible within the next 24 hours. The restriction is expected to tighten even further Friday night to a “modified port condition Zulu, ceasing all vessel movements on the Chesapeake Bay south of the Bay Bridge.”

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to strengthen and reach the coast of North Carolina early Saturday. That will bring tropical storm conditions to portions of the southeastern and mid-Atlantic coast. Tropical Storm Warnings for parts of Maryland and Virginia were already issued Friday, continuing into Saturday night.

Gale-force winds expected in the Bay region could range from 34-47 knots (39-54 mph). In addition, heavy seas, storm surge and tidal flooding are expected. According to the National Weather Service Hurricane Center, “there is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation over portions of eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, including Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, the lower James River and the lower Chesapeake Bay, where storm surge warnings are in place.” The lower Bay and lower Potomac River showed a predicted storm surge up to five feet.

Life-threatening surf and rip currents are also expected for the mid-Atlantic coast. And localized urban and stream flooding is possible from North Carolina to New Jersey through Sunday.

As of Friday morning, no restrictions had been announced from Coast Guard Sector Virginia, but the ports of Morehead City and Wilmington, North Carolina were under port condition Yankee as well.

Under port condition Yankee, a port is closed to arriving vessels over 500 gross tons. All ships bigger than 500 gross tons that were already at the port must leave, unless they’re granted special permission to stay.

Port condition Zulu, which would close the Bay to traffic below the Bay Bridge, is expected to come into play Friday night, and would be lifted as soon as the storm and gale-force winds subside.

Questions about Baltimore’s port condition should be directed to the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR Waterways Management staff at 410-576-2595 or 2519, or via email at [email protected].

You can monitor updates from the National Hurricane Center on their website.

-Meg Walburn Viviano