The one-two punch of torrential rains and heavy flooding from Tropical Storm Imelda has forced road closures and route changes for freight businesses in Houston and coastal Texas.
“The road system in and around Houston has been significantly affected by flood waters,” said Troy Ryley, president of Redwood Mexico at Redwood Logistics. “This is creating delays and cancellation of pickups and deliveries into the area.”
The storm unexpectedly dropped 9.18 inches of rain in Houston on Sept. 19, as well as a record-breaking 43 inches of rain around Beaumont, according to the National Weather Service.
Three people have died and at least 1,000 people had to be water rescued, as areas around Houston remain flooded into the weekend. Galveston and Beaumont – part of the Houston freight market – have been some of the hardest hit areas.
Michael Ceravolo, chief operating officer of Beemac Logistics in Houston, said that just under 300 shipments were impacted by Imelda.
“They were delayed or postponed due to the impacts of the weather since several roads were impassable,” Ceravolo said. “Most customers have resumed shipping as the rain stopped today, but we expect to see a continued backlog of freight until the early part of next week as things normalize.”
ExxonMobil said on Sept. 19 that it was shutting down its 370,000 barrel per day Beaumont refinery because of flooding.
Interstate 10, between Beaumont and Houston, was impassable near the city of Channelview after a bridge over the San Jacinto River was struck by two barges that broke loose due to severe flooding from Imelda.
“Early this morning, multiple barges broke loose from the north side of the San Jacinto River on I-10 East. Barges are stacked up. There is possible structural damage to the bridge,” tweeted Ed Gonzalez, Harris County (Texas) Sheriff. “Be advised, both sides of I-10 East are completely shut down at the San Jacinto River.”
Knoxville, Tennessee-based Highway Transport, which provides bulk transport of specialty chemicals in the Houston area, posted on Facebook that the San Jacinto Bridge closure is affecting traffic and deliveries.
“Highway Transport customers have plants in this area that will be impacted by the out-of-service bridge. Traffic on State Highways 146 and 225, and Beltway 8, are going to be extremely heavy with everyone having to detour,” company officials posted.
The storm also affected airports and seaports in Houston, Beaumont and Galveston.
Port Houston closed its container terminal to trucks at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 because of the flooding in the area, but was open for normal business hours the next day.
“All of Port Houston’s terminals, including the container terminals, are open. I’ve heard of no damage to our facilities,” said Bill Hensel manager of external communications for Port Houston.
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport also reopened Friday morning after being closed for several hours Thursday due to heavy rain and flooding.
Officials at the Port of Beaumont said they had to operate with a lighter than normal crew on Sept. 19, during the worst part of Imelda’s rain and flooding.
“We never closed, the port was open and operating, but some of the roads around here were flooded,” said Sade Chick, spokeswoman for the Port of Beaumont.
The Port of Galveston temporarily closed its administrative offices Sept. 18, as Tropical Storm Imelda came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, but reopened the next day.