Irma already taking a toll on the supply chain

Truck capacity drops 30% in Southeast, crops at risk

As Hurricane Irma continues to move through the Southeast, some of its impacts are now being assessed, and they are likely to disrupt operations for many for days and weeks to come.

Irma made landfall on Sunday morning at Cudjoe Key, FL, which is just east of Key West. At landfall, Irma was a Category 4 storm with max winds of 130 mph. As it has moved across land, it has weakened and was a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 75 mph this morning, with the center of the storm over northern Florida. During the next few days, Irma will continue to weaken as the remnants move from northern Florida to Tennessee. The heaviest rains will be concentrated across northern Florida, Georgia, southeast South Carolina, eastern Alabama and lesser amounts in other areas of the Southeast.

Savannah, GA, was seeing hurricane-force winds this morning and most of the ports in the Southeast remained closed this morning. “Charleston is most likely to be impacted by flooding, especially in low-lying areas, as onshore winds will stay in the low-end tropical storm force range,” according to the latest Wathtower Alert from Riskpulse.

In Florida, there are some 6.2 million residents with no electricity, which could hamper efforts to reopen and restock stores and move supplies into the area. Power outages could spread through Georgia as the region faces tropical storm force wind gusts in the 45-50 mph range today, potentially blowing down trees and wires.

On a broader transportation scale, impacts are already hampering the supply chain.

“We’re hearing that shipping capacity is severely limited across the eastern two-thirds of the country today,” says Stephen Bennett, COO of Riskpulse, with is a supply chain risk analytics firm. “We’ve heard that truck capacity is running about 30% of what would normally be expected today in the Southeast.”


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Florida’s main exports are agricultural products, and that industry took a severe blow from Irma. Bennett says that the combination of wind and rain caused damage to citrus crops with significant tree damage in the central Florida citrus belt.

“There was also damage to the vegetable and fruit crops (other than citrus) across much of the interior sections of the Peninsula,” he adds. “The vegetable crops were in the process of being planted and for the crops already in the fields, damage occurred over the past few days as Irma moved northward across the Peninsula. For the portion of the crops not planted, the heavy rains will cause major delays in fieldwork operations including planting and fieldwork prep.”

Those delays are likely to lead truck capacity issues and potentially rate impacts down the line.

The rest of the Southeast agricultural belt will handle the storm a little better than Florida, with heavy rains impacting cotton, corn, soybeans, groundnuts, poultry and hogs, but because the storm will not stall, no major flooding issues are expected.

Rebuilding will be a major task, and one that trucking will play a major role in. According to JLT Re, an insurance company that partners with Riskpulse, initial estimates of Irma’s losses could exceed $50 billion, with many estimating $20 to $40 billion.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.