Severe Weather Alert: Transportation Impacts 09/11/2017

As Hurricane Irma lays its assault on the Florida peninsula, it threatens the region’s primary commerce corridors with tropical conditions forecasted to reach Memphis and Charlotte over the next few days. Also, Harvey relief efforts may be impacted by the latest storm. Recovery from both systems could last months.

Transportation Mode Updates from Carrier Assessments

Freight transportation providers are still recovering from the category 4 storm that devastated the Gulf Coast two weeks ago while Hurricane Irma hammers the Southeast as a major storm that threatens to further tighten capacity, hike trucking rates, and damage infrastructure.

Notices of disruptions and service outages may be available on many rail and trucking carriers’ websites.

Active communication between carriers, suppliers, and customers is imperative for coordinating short- and long-term recovery efforts.

INTERMODAL: Intermodal providers may be restricting intermodal traffic south to Miami until further notice Intermodal shippers can expect 72+ hour delays for all traffic into or out of Florida.

Rail: The Federal Railroad Administration declared an “emergency event” for all freight railroad operations and granted waivers for certain FRA regulations during and after the storm.

CSX is taking precautions to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure. The storm’s path and intensity are being closely monitored for potential effects to the rail network and the operating plan.  Based on current weather forecasts, delays are expected for traffic moving into and out of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina as railroad operations are restored in areas affected by the hurricane.

CSX Service Advisory

FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILWAY will begin assessing damage to the terminals and networks, starting in Miami and moving north to Jacksonville, as early as this morning. Recovery for some terminals is anticipated as early as today. Terminals will begin rolling startups as conditions permit. Interchange traffic to/from NS and CSX is targeted to resume Tuesday morning.

Norfolk Southern continues to watch the storm closely and is taking precautions to protect employees, track, and shipments. Traffic en route to locations near the Southeast Coast are being held at various yards throughout the Norfolk Southern system in an effort to alleviate congestion in the region.  Additionally, NS has issued embargoes for these locations. In preparation NS Engineering has staged resources, including ballast trains, equipment, and generators, and will be prepared to commence storm recovery efforts once it is safe to do so.  Norfolk Southern continues to work with customers in these areas to identify switching needs and service curtailment.

Transportation Updates from Port, Depots, and Support Assessments

TX

Shipping delays and transportation difficulties could continue for weeks, but vessel operations have resumed at all ports.

GA

In response to Hurricane Irma, the Georgia Ports Authority will cease operations at the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick, effective Saturday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Truck gates closed at 6 p.m. Friday in Savannah, while vessel operations ended at midnight. The Port of Savannah ceased accepting empty container returns Friday.

At Colonel’s Island and Mayor’s Point terminals in Brunswick, gates closed at 5 p.m. Friday

Re-Opening of Terminals

The opening of the GPA terminals is dependent on Hurricane path and post facilities assessment.

FL

The U.S. Coast Guard has set the following port conditions:
Zulu: Port of Key West, Port Everglades, Port Miami, Port of Palm Beach, Port Canaveral, Port Tampa Bay, Port Manatee, Port Tampa Bay, Port St. Pete, Port of Ft. Pierce, JAXPORT, Port of Fernandina. All port operations have been suspended.
Yankee: Port of Panama City, Port of Pensacola.  These ports and facilities are currently closed to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations while Yankee remains in effect.

SC

The South Carolina Ports Authority continues to monitor conditions associated with tropical storm Irma.

The SCPA will cease all Charleston operations — breakbulk and container — at 2 pm on Monday, September 11.

Normal operations will resume on Tuesday morning, September 12.

Market Impacts & Highway Updates

Market Impact

Productivity

In Texas, some staff that was personally impacted by Harvey have yet to return to work; leaving some facilities to operate at a reduced capacity due to a limited workforce. Economist predict joblessness could remain elevated for weeks in the aftermath of Harvey.

Likewise, employees in Florida and Georgia may be under evacuation orders as a result of Irma, impacting workforce capabilities in those states. Over 1/3 of Florida’s population evacuated ahead of the storm and Georgia’s mandatory evacuation is in effect for all areas east of I-95, all of Chatham County and some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by potential storm surge from Hurricane Irma. Georgia officials have also issued a voluntary evacuation for people who live in Camden County.

Additionally, Irma has contributed to massive power outages with nearly 5 million homes and businesses without power in Florida and another 100,000 outages in Georgia.

Capacity

According to DAT Solutions, both Harvey and Irma are contributing to capacity constraints in an already tight market. Equipment, drivers, and other resources have been stretched to the limit nationwide. As such, shippers may see tighter capacity over the next few weeks and even into the retail/holiday season.

Fuel

Though Irma is a large storm, experts don’t expect the storm to pose as serious a threat to the fuel chain as Harvey. Shortages and disruptions to the fuel line have been reported at stations in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Pricing

As with other natural disasters, the full scope of Irma’s impact on pricing won’t be immediately known but shippers could expect spot rate to increase similarly to spikes in the aftermath of Harvey. The major increase to rates will likely to be on freight moving into the Southeast.

Highway Updates

TX

At this time all interstates are open in the Houston area and conditions in terms of road access continue to improve.

FL

Debris and areas of standing water are possible on Southwest Florida Roads due to Hurricane Irma. Motorists are urged to use caution.

GA

There may be areas of congestion on various segments of I-75 northbound and I-95 northbound as heavy traffic from Florida moves north. Motorists heading to Atlanta and points north should expect a longer than normal drive.  Delays are currently running around 4 hours of additional travel time between Florida and the City of Atlanta.

Due to an anticipated increase in congestion from Florida and Georgia evacuees, Georgia DOT will suspend construction-related lane closures on interstates and state routes throughout the entire state of Georgia until Wednesday, September 13.

Due to extra heavy traffic on I-75 northbound coming up from Florida, the normal schedule for the 75 South Express lanes has been revised. At noon today, Monday, September 11, the Express Lanes will be operating SOUTHBOUND and will remain that way until further notice to accommodate the evacuee traffic.

Florida SunPass holders are reminded that they can use the Georgia Express Lanes as the two systems are interoperable.

The State Road and Toll Authority has temporarily suspended tolls on the 75 South Express Lanes until further notice. Tractor trailers are not allowed to use the Express Lanes.

SC

There is a National Weather Service Tropical Storm Warning in effect for areas between

I-26: Exit 169B Northbound to Florence and Exit 221B-Meeting Street, Visitor Center, and Downtown-Charleston.

I-95: Between Georgia State Line and 2 mi N of Exit 33-US 17 and between Georgia State Line and 1 mi S of Exit 86A-Interstate 26 Eastbound to Charleston.

I-526