Lone Star lashing
Tropical Depression 11 (TD-11), quickly and newly formed around midday today, Sept. 17, will soak southeastern Texas the next couple of days. Flooding in the Houston and Galveston areas may end up worse than meteorologists, including myself, originally expected. According to the National Weather Service, some spots have already received around two inches of rainfall today. Shippers, carriers and brokers: prepare for possible delays due to potential road closures along the I-10 corridor.
TD-11, paired with an upper-atmospheric low pressure system and abundant tropical moisture, will produce many periods of showers and thunderstorms the rest of this afternoon through Wednesday morning, Sept. 18. However, the rain could linger into Wednesday night and Thursday in some areas. Also, TD-11’s maximum sustained winds as of noon EDT today jumped up to 35 mph as the system became more organized. At 39 mph the depression will become a tropical storm. The odds of this happening are good.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the coast of Texas from Sargent to Port Bolivar. Minor storm surge may add to the flood threat, and wind damage should be kept to a minimum with spotty power outages possible.
The center of the TD-11 will likely move inland over the Upper Texas coast later today, then move farther inland tonight and Wednesday. Based on forecast models housed inside the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform, TD-11 could produce total rainfall amounts of five to 10 inches, with pockets of up to 15 inches across the upper coastal region of Texas into far southwest Louisiana – 1.5 to 2 times the original forecast amounts due to TD-11 forming and intensifying so quickly. This rainfall may produce life-threatening flash floods not only in Houston and Galveston, but also in surrounding areas including, but not limited to Cleveland, Wharton, Bay City, Pasadena Sugar Land and Texas City.
Hourly rainfall rates could prove too tough for infrastructures to manage. Typically, the roadways of Houston are designed to flood during heavy rainfall, carrying water away from yards into bayous, then toward the Gulf of Mexico. However, they’re typically able to handle about one to two inches of rain per hour. During tropical events such as the one just beginning, rainfall rates can be much higher.
Truckers, please be extra cautious. Do not try to drive into areas where the water covers the road. The water may be deeper than it looks. If you do get caught in rising water, abandon your tractor-trailer quickly and get to higher ground immediately.
Shippers, carriers and brokers: keep an eye on inbound volumes and rejection rates (ITVI.HOU, ITRI.HOU) for Houston in the coming days. Carriers may be reluctant to head to the Houston market knowing that a tropical depression/potential tropical storm is about to move through the area. Also, outbound capacity (OTVI.HOU) may be tight during and just after the heavy rain and flooding.
The only silver lining is that the rain will alleviate the abnormally dry conditions in the region, especially the Galveston area, which has a year-to-date (ytd) deficit of more than seven inches compared to normal ytd rainfall. But the price of recuperating the precipitation may be the cost of significant flooding, even if only temporary.
Additional Atlantic cyclones
Hurricane Humberto is still spinning over the Atlantic, about 500 miles west of Bermuda. Humberto will not have a major impact on shipping lanes as it continues moving away from the U.S. East Coast. However, minor delays are possible as ocean freighters will have to steer around the storm, which will brush by Bermuda to the north Wednesday night and Thursday. It’s a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 mph and could get a bit stronger on its approach to Bermuda. Although Humberto will probably not hit Bermuda directly, winds will increase on the island Wednesday and Thursday, and surf will become rough along the southern coast.
There’s a high probability that Tropical Depression 10 (TD-10), which formed well south of Humberto earlier today, will become a named tropical storm this week. If development continues, this storm may hit some Caribbean Islands, but most corecast models keep it to the north over open waters.
Regardless of which tropical depression wins the race to tropical storm status, the next name on the list is Imelda, followed by Jerry. All of these tropical systems are developing stories. Look for updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts throughout the week.