Impacts already rippling through supply chain as Irma approaches

(Photo: Riskpulse)

(Photo: Riskpulse)

Google to offer real-time road closures map

Florida highways were jammed with people on Friday fleeing Hurricane Irma, as the Category 4 storm approached the state. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma remains a Category 4 hurricane this afternoon with 150 mph winds and is tracking toward the Florida. Because of the size of Irma, regardless of where it makes landfall in Florida, most of the state is expected to impacted, starting late Saturday into Sunday.

Storm surge could be up to 12 feet in some areas of Florida. Rain accumulations of 4 to 12 inches, with isolated amounts of 20 inches are expected over the Florida peninsula Saturday through Monday. The highest amounts are expected over the eastern Florida peninsula and upper Florida Keys, NHC said.

After making landfall, the exact track of Irma remains uncertain, but Georgia, South Carolina and western Carolina are likely to see heavy rain early next week. For truck drivers unsure of current road conditions, Google Maps has teamed up with Florida to provide real-time road closures.

“To provide access to accurate and useful transportation information, we use algorithmic and manual methods to account for everyday and emergency road closures. We're working directly with Florida officials to help provide up-to-date information to those affected by the storm. These road closures will also appear on our Irma Crisis Map, embedded as part of our SOS Alert on Search,” Google said.

“Based on what we know, the majority of Florida will have major hurricane impact and deadly winds. We expect this along the entire east coast and west coast,” Gov. Rick Scott said. “All Floridians should be prepared to evacuate.”

Diesel fuel prices had already seen a jump this week following supply disruptions from Hurricane Harvey. That could continue following Irma. Ahead of the storm, there were reports of gas stations in Florida running out of fuel. The Department of Energy reported a 16-cent jump in the national price of diesel fuel for the week following Harvey, but data tracked by Breakthrough Fuel shows more volatility day-to-day following the storm, with wholesale prices (which is the rate many carrier contracts are based on) rising 5 cents on Aug. 25, the day Harvey made landfall, and continuing to rise through Thursday, where prices are up 25.2 cents per gallon.

Several states have seen even larger price jumps, Breakthrough Fuel notes, including Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, which all have seen wholesale prices rise about 35 cents per gallon as of Thursday. Tennessee was up 33.5 cents. Breakthrough explained that these jumps are due to the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies all of these states, operating at a reduced level as Houston refineries continue to return to normal.

Florida, the firm said, receives the majority of its refined products via marine, so prices there could be impacted by road and port closures following the storms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Irma has already disrupted oil tanker movements with transshipment hubs in the Caribbean shut down. Shipping lines Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co. said at least 10 vessels have cancelled or delayed calls to ports. The Port of Miami is shutting down most of its operations by 8 p.m. tonight, with several of the port operators closing their terminals on Thursday afternoon.

At the Ports of Savannah, GA, and Brunswick, operations will cease on Saturday morning with expected closures lasting until Tuesday, Sept. 12. Savannah is closing its truck gates at 6 p.m. tonight and Brunswick will close its at 5 p.m.

"The safety of our employees and partners in the maritime community is our highest concern,” said Griff Lynch, Georgia Port Authority director. “We encourage GPA staff and our neighbors to heed Governor Deal's warning and evacuate ahead of the storm.”

On the trucking and supply chain side, Irma is likely to stretch already thin resources. As DAT’s Mark Montague explained to FreightWaves earlier this week, Atlanta has been filling in gaps for Houston area shipments that are only starting to return to normal. A significant disruption to shipping out of the Atlanta area early next week could drive rates up even more.

One positive, according to Noel Perry, a partner with FTR Transportation Intelligence, is that in terms of outbound shipping via truck, Florida is not the major hub that Houston is.

“If you look at the trucks operating in Florida, most of them are coming from somewhere else and bringing consumer goods to be sold in stores. Not much comes out of Florida except fruits and vegetables,” he told Trucks.com.

Still, Hurricane Irma is expected to impact Florida as well as Georgia, North and South Carolina and depending on its ultimate track, Alabama and parts of Tennessee. The extent of disruption in those states, and continued impacts as remnants move up the East Coast later in the week, remains to be seen, but trucking operations in several states could be slowed for much of next week.

“Companies are kind of hunkering down. It is disrupting the supply chain already,” Dave Menzel, chief operating officer at Echo Global Logistics, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Florida Trucking Association has a list of resources on its website, including current suspension of certain regulations, emergency permit information, and a link to for those carriers or truckers wishing to donate capacity or help in recovery.