Hurricane Harvey: Transportation Impacts 09/01/2017

The Texas Coast and parts of western Louisiana have been left in dire conditions one week after Hurricane Harvey made its initial landfall, devastating the region. Record rainfall inundated the area since Friday and the long-term consequences have yet to be realized as companies check in on staff, assess damage, and prepare for recovery.

Transportation Mode Updates from Carrier Assessments

Active communication between carriers, suppliers, and customers is imperative for coordinating short- and long-term recovery efforts. Many rail and trucking carriers are providing additional notices of disruptions and service outages on their websites.

Bulk: Activity has resumed in some areas where it is feasible to do so. Some Houston area bulk tank wash locations are now operating but at limited capacity due to flood impacts and staffing constraints. Access to facilities over the extended weekend may increase carrier acceptance rates and bring freight networks back into balance sooner.

Truckload: Drivers are beginning to move loads into and out of the Houston area as roadways allow. There are still record levels of road closures in the area which will cause out-of-route miles and delays. Carriers are working closely with local authorities and customers to assess pick-up and delivery access.

Less-than-Truckload: There continue to be many locations where no pickups or deliveries are being made, particularly in the greater Houston area. Shipments are being rerouted to help ensure delivery to final destinations as quickly as conditions allow. Delays may continue into the coming weeks.

Rail: Rail service continue to experience some interruptions.

BNSF – As conditions improve along the Gulf Coast, BNSF crews are making significant progress in restoring rail service and facility operations in the Houston area and other areas of southeastern Texas. Service has been restored on the Houston Subdivision and a greater portion of Galveston Subdivision, from Temple to just south of Alvin, Texas.

BNSF rail yards at Silsbee, Galveston and Beaumont remain closed due to flooding. The South Yard, Dayton Yard and Casey Yard have reopened with limited operations. The Houston (Pearland) Intermodal Facility is accessible through the automated gate system (AGS) and train loading and unloading operations have resumed. The Houston (Pearland) Automotive Facility is also now open with unloading operations back up. Customers should be advised that road closures in the area may continue to impact access to facilities that have re-opened. Day shift operations at the Port Terminal Railroad Association (PTRA) yards are expected to resume September 1st.

Trains that are currently staged will be ready to move as blocked routes are cleared and destinations are able to receive. BNSF continues to re-route or divert as much traffic as possible around the area until flood waters recede and storm damaged lines can be repaired. Routes are open into central Texas and traffic is moving through San Antonio, including trains destined for Mexico.  BNSF Service Update – Hurricane Harvey

UP – Operations in the Gulf Coast continue to be impacted by the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey.

  • Repairs have been completed between Houston and Bryan, Texas.
  • Repairs have been completed between Houston and Angleton, Texas.
  • Work has been completed to begin switching operations over the next two days in areas south of UP’s primary rail yards (Englewood and Settegast) including Angleton, La Porte and Freeport, Texas.
  • Current areas of focus include repairs between Houston and San Antonio. Once repaired, the UP can begin operating trains directly between San Antonio and Houston.
  • Repairs to track and signals, as well as bridge inspections continue where there is access. In areas with no road access, such as in the Baytown, Texas area, inspections continue to be conducted by air via helicopters and drones.

A complete list of active Union Pacific embargoes can be viewed here. The embargoes are for all rail traffic, including intermodal equipment and automotive shipments. Customers should consider diverting cars away from the impacted areas. Additional embargoes added as of August 30th.

  • All Union Pacific shipments interchanged at Brownsville, Texas.
  • Including 36 rail stations in the Beaumont/Orange, Texas areas including Amelia and Port Arthur.

UP Service Update – Hurricane Harvey

Transportation Updates from Port, Depots, and Support Assessments

Vessel Traffic at the ports will reopen when channels have been deemed safe by the US Coast Guard.

The below ports were in the direct path of Harvey:

Brownsville – Open with no restrictions

Corpus Christi – Open with the following restrictions:

  • All vessels are restricted to a draft not to exceed 43 feet.
  • All foreign registered vessels 100 gross registered tons or larger, all domestic tank vessels 10,000 gross registered tons or larger, and all domestic non-tank vessels 1,600 gross registered tons or larger must:
  1. Conduct one way transits only;
  2. Have a minimum of 2 pilots for each transit; and
  3. Transit during daylight hours only.

Freeport – The Port of Freeport is now open to vessels with less than 33ft draft limited to daylight. The Port’s administration offices will reopen on Friday, September 1st.

Galveston – The Port of Galveston/Galveston Ship Channel is now open to vessels with less than 33ft draft limited to daylight. The Port’s administration offices will reopen on Friday, September 1st.

Houston – All Port Houston facilities will resume operations on Friday, Sept. 1st. Gates are open from 0700 – 1700 with in-gate closing at 1600. Vessels will be worked as they are cleared for transit.For Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4th, vessels will be worked at Port Houston Container Terminals. Gate operations TBA.

Port Arthur – The Captain of the Port of Port Arthur has set Port Condition Recovery for the ports of Beaumont, TX; Port Arthur, TX; Orange, Texas; and Lake Charles, LA including all tributaries and connecting waterways effective August 31, 2017. Restrictions on vessel movements within these port complexes will be managed by the Captain of the Port and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Port Arthur.  Vessel movement restrictions will be evaluated and updated regularly as additional surveys are conducted.  Extreme currents require the implementation of navigation restrictions. Please click here for full details.

Texas City – The Port of Texas City is now open to vessels with less than 33ft draft limited to daylight.

Market Impacts & Highway Updates

Market Impact


The immediate, and most obvious, effect of the storm on the supply chain was idle trucks waiting for water to recede from roads and loading areas. All trucking activity in the Houston area, and much of the activity in other areas affected by the flooding, was suspended over the past week. Overall recovery will be further complicated by the scope of the storm’s damage of personal properties. Personnel may not have safe egress from their residences to their places of employment once businesses reopen. Likewise, many employees at plants, terminals, transportation companies, and other entities along the supply chain have lost homes and vehicles to Harvey and may be displaced for some time due to the flooding. Even after the water recedes, many facilities may continue operating with limited staff as employees cope with damage to their own properties. Experts anticipate that parts of Houston will be uninhabitable due to water damage, mold, and contaminated water supply. Residential recovery could last for weeks and possibly months.


The impact of Harvey is magnified by Houston’s role as a major freight hub. Companies will undoubtedly reroute or reschedule loads to adjust to the conditions in the Gulf; thereby altering freight services nationwide. Such changes may contribute to capacity constraints. The network impacts of Hurricane Harvey are being felt well beyond the areas directly impacted by the storm. Major disruptions in one area can dramatically impact truck and trailer availability in areas that didn’t experience storm related damage.

Additionally, recovery efforts will influence truck availability due to transportation companies allocating resources to assist with the influx of inbound relief shipments. Flatbed capacity will have an immediate effect, followed by refrigerated and dry trailers that will be necessary to transport food, ice, bottled water, and supplies.


Already, places across the country have seen national fuel prices increase after Texas refineries and pipelines were forced to shut down in the aftermath of Harvey. Approximately a quarter of US refining capacity is offline. Pipeline operators are having to adjust the flow of fuel products as a result. The disruption in that area will drive up fuel prices as well as the fuel surcharges carriers charge for every load over a 4-6 week period.

Colonial Pipeline’s Lines 1 and 2 continue to operate from Lake Charles east. Deliveries will be intermittent and dependent on terminal and refinery supply.

The lines remain down from Houston to Hebert due to the storms. Current estimates place a return to service from Houston as Sunday, September 3rd, following an evaluation of the infrastructure and successful execution of Colonial’s start up plan.

Truck stop locations may experience intermittent fuel outages while fuel deliveries are being made. Strain on the fuel supply around the Houston area and other parts of eastern Texas have been reported.  Most Pilot or Flying J locations in Texas and Louisiana are open and fully operational for diesel fuel purchases.


Trucking rates are expected to spike when freight begins to flow again as a result of productivity, capacity, and fuel constraints. Economists estimate transportation costs will rise between 5-22% in the short term, according to sources at BluJay Solutions.

Highway Updates

Major highways in the Houston area remain impassable in some locations. Travel is not advised in the affected areas due to rapidly changing water levels and unsafe conditions. Please see link below for specific details.