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With Hurricane Dorian moving up the Eastern Seaboard, businesses in Charleston are bracing for the storm and for a loss of revenue. File/Matthew Fortner/Staff

With Hurricane Dorian creeping up the South Atlantic seaboard, Charleston businesses and workers are preparing for the all-too familiar fallout: closings, lost wages and diminished revenue.

The winds from Dorian aren't expected to start howling in the Palmetto State until early Wednesday. But with Gov. Henry McMaster having already ordered a coastal evacuation, businesses are feeling Dorian's disruptive impact.

Charleston International Airport

Hurricane Dorian is forcing Charleston International Airport (above) to close by 3 p.m. Wednesday, when the air traffic control tower is set to be shut down. The hope is that flights will resume by early Friday. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

The financial hit will likely be most acutely felt by Charleston's thriving tourism industry. The coastal hospitality trade has borne the brunt of storm evacuations in three of the past four years.

In each instance, hotels have suffered as guests check out early or cancel reservations. The impact ripples up and down the visitor industry food chain, from restaurants to attractions to golf courses and retail stores.

"Unfortunately, we know how to do this," said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston, formerly the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's not our favorite part of the job." 

Charleston International Airport, a key link for the industry, is expected to close by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, when the air-traffic control tower expects to shut down. The hope is that commercial flights will resume by Friday morning.

Businesses that rely on tourism can't recapture all of the lost revenue, Hill said. All they can do to stem their losses is to reopen as quickly as possible, once it's safe to do so.

"You have to get visitors back, and you can't do that now," Hill said Tuesday.

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The Port of Charleston's Wando Welch Terminal (above) and other operations are shutting down Wednesday and Thursday because of Hurricane Dorian. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Other key sectors of the economy also are being disrupted. 

The Port of Charleston — South Carolina's connection to world trade — was operating on a normal schedule Tuesday. But it, too, will hunker down and cease operations Wednesday and Thursday as Dorian is forecast to lash the state with powerful winds and dump 10 to 15 inches of rain along the coast.

Boeing Co., which employs more than 7,000 workers at several sites in North Charleston, has already suspended its local operations. The aerospace giant will be flying some of the completed 787 Dreamliners that are built at its campus off International Boulevard to other locations well outside Dorian's path. 

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.


"Our leaders across the company are closely monitoring the storm and are working closely with state and local governmental authorities to stay ahead of emergency preparedness planning," company spokeswoman Libba Holland said. "Boeing South Carolina has suspended operations so teammates can take safety precautions for themselves and their families, as needed."

Next door to the 787 aircraft plant, Charleston International was still managing incoming and outgoing flights Tuesday.

"We're staffed up today, and we'll be staffed up tomorrow," said Paul Campbell, CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, which owns and operates the state's busiest airport.

Charleston International handles more than 13,000 passengers on an average day. Campbell advised affected travelers to check with individual carriers for the latest updates about schedule changes and flight cancellations. 

Meanwhile, the two big utilities that supply the region with electricity are preparing for the likelihood of power outages this week by staging hundreds of employees and contractors in areas along the coast. Santee Cooper and Dominion Energy said they also have several helicopters available to assess any damage once Dorian passes.

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.