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FMCSA suspends hours of service regulations for Harvey relief

The rainfall potential for areas of Texas indicates 15 inches or more over the next several days. Some areas could see up to 40 inches at Hurricane Harvey stalls over the region. (Image: Riskpulse)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has suspended certain commercial regulations in Texas and Louisiana, including hours of service, for drivers providing “direct assistance” for hurricane relief under regulation 49 CFR 390.5. The exemptions, it said, only apply to 49 CFR Parts 390-399, but apply to all states that drivers are traveling through “on their route to the emergency, even though those states may not be involved in the emergency or stated in the declaration of emergency.”

The Friday night landfall of Hurricane Harvey, though, was just the beginning of problems for the region. The Texas Department of Transportation is discouraging travel in areas affected by the storm until conditions subside, it said, adding that significant flooding of roadways could continue for several days. There are officially at least 21 roads closed and at least 40 other roads marked as flooded or otherwise affected but not officially closed on Texas’s traffic website.

Harvey officially made landfall about 10 p.m. Central time between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, TX. At the time, maximum sustained winds were 130 mph, making Harvey a Category 4 storm. It was also first major hurricane (Cat. 3 or higher) to make U.S. landfall in 12 years.

Early reports Friday night indicated structural damage and massive debris in areas where the western and northern eyewall moved onshore, said Riskpulse in its Real Time Analysis Feed for Harvey. As predicted the storm began weakening once it came ashore and as of 9 a.m. local time was down to 80 mph winds.

In Rockport, which located on Aransas Bay, a roof on a senior housing complex collapsed, injuring 10 people, KTRK-TV reported.

At least 200,000 people in the state were without power this morning and that number is expected to rise.

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The initial impact of Harvey has resulted in widespread damage that will be assessed over the coming days, but the storm is likely to continue to menace the region for days. Riskpulse said Harvey is expected to linger for several days, bringing heavy rainfall that could reach 20-40 inches in some places. Widespread flooding is expected with water reaching dangerous levels.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Harvey was tracking north at about 2 knots and because of light steering winds, could remain over southeast Texas for four or five days. “This slow motion of the cyclone is expected to exacerbate the potential for catastrophic flooding from heavy rainfall at least through the middle of next week,” it said.

FedEx issued a statement, saying that it “is closely monitoring Hurricane Harvey. Our contingency plans are in place and, as always, our priorities are the safety and well-being of our team members and minimizing the effects of potential storms on service. FedEx will be prepared to provide service to the best of our ability in areas affected by the storm and as local conditions allow.”

The company added that packages not delivered will be stored and delivery will be attempted once it is safe to do so.

UPS has not issued a specific statement, but notes on its website dozens of zip codes that are being affected by the storm.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed the ports of Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Freeport and Corpus Christi on Friday. It is unclear at this point when those ports will reopen and how soon cargo ships will be allowed to dock.

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