Heavy Hitters: How the 2017 Hurricane Season is Impacting Transportation

As Hurricane Ophelia churned out in the Atlantic this past week, first veering away from the US east coast before heading towards Ireland and Britain, she became part of the historical 2017 hurricane season. In fact, the storm officially became the 10th consecutive storm to grow to hurricane strength — a streak of systems that will tie a record last set in the late 1800s.

“It comes in a season that has already produced five major hurricanes, including three ferocious Category 5 storms and 15 named storms,” according to the Miami Herald. The amount of accumulated cyclone energy — a measure of the intensity and longevity of storms — is also 254 percent higher than average with seven weeks left in the season, according to University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

“We had 15 named storms last year, but things got named that weren’t really things people would remember,” he told the Miami Herald. “There are some heavy hitters this season.”

Capacity Crunch:

As we all know, Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana in late-August, followed by Hurricane Irma in Florida on September 11. Hurricane Maria was right on the latter’s heels, and became the second major storm to slam into multiple Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico. The sheer size of these storms, and the number of communities and businesses impacted by them, have created both short- and long-term transportation and logistics challenges.

Stabilization is in Sight

On October 10th, IHS Markit released a new forecast on the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the national and regional economies, supply chains, transportation infrastructure, automotive industry, and the crude oil, refining, and chemical sectors. Both hurricanes disrupted economic activity in the third quarter, “but recovery and rebuilding will boost growth in subsequent quarters,” according to Supply Chain Digital’s James Henderson.

According to IHS Markit, for example, transportation infrastructure has been restored almost entirely and any transportation volumes stalled by the hurricanes have started to come back. “Transportation rate spikes have also begun to stabilize, but are still higher than they were before the storms hit,” Henderson writes. “Tightening in freight capacity, even before the hurricanes hit, will have an effect on increased transportation costs in the third and fourth quarters of 2017.”

Odyssey will continue to monitor any changes in the transportation environment this active hurricane season and keep you updated on the situation.