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Retailers, logistics providers prepare for Hurricane Dorian in light of unpredictable path

Trucks move into position ahead of Hurricane Dorian (Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

While most forecast models have Hurricane Dorian staying offshore of the U.S. mainland, the Category 5 storm is expected to move near Florida on Labor Day, then make its way up the coast throughout the week. This northward movement poses a threat to Georgia and the Carolinas. 

The severity of the threat to Georgia and the Carolinas depends on Dorian’s precise path and how fast the storm weakens as it moves up the coast. 

As of 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, the hurricane was moving directly over the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. Maximum sustained winds reached as high as 185 mph, according to National Hurricane Center (NHC) data housed inside FreightWaves SONAR. The powerful storm was 185 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida. 

SONAR Critical Events: Major Hurricane Dorian, September 1, 2019, 2:00 p.m. EDT.

While all eyes remain on Florida for the time being, there is a chance that Dorian will maintain enough power to cause significant damage as makes its way north. Retailers shipping goods into potentially impacted areas have to remain aware of this possibility, as well as the storm’s propensity for changing paths.

“The storm’s path still being fluid is definitely a big element in everything we are doing. We’re tracking this storm in real-time. We have an emergency operations center that is activated and paying attention to store needs and associate needs right now,” Walmart spokesperson Payton McCormick said. “We are staying connected to make sure we are stocking where appropriate and what items are appropriate. As the storm trajectory changes, we will adjust as needed. If that means it is going to hit Georgia or the Carolinas, we will make those adjustments here as early as we can.”

Large third party logistics (3PL) companies have also been working around the clock to track the storm, prepare response plans and move loads into communities that are likely to take the biggest hits. 

“With the storm’s current uncertain path, we are monitoring in real-time the situation, tracking the data and evaluating various scenarios so that we are ready to activate a response plan to meet the needs of relief organizations as soon as it’s needed,” Mac Pinkerton, president of North American surface transportation at C.H. Robinson, said. “Our Emergency Solutions Team has been working around the clock all weekend coordinating relief efforts, contingency planning with our customers and setting up stand-by carrier fleets to be ready.”

Despite the storm’s unpredictable nature, C.H. Robinson has been using data and predictive analysis to proactively reroute shipments and stage capacity. This ability to react preemptively will help keeps goods flowing to the places they are needed most, according to Pinkerton. It can also help keep carriers safe in the midst of the storm.

“Through our platform, Navisphere, we can provide full visibility into supply lines, connectivity to customers and service providers, and strategic data to help drive decisions and optimize capacity in the face of rapidly changing storm conditions,” Pinkerton said. “The platform uses interactive maps with weather to display where customer shipments are at any one point in time and can instantly identify where shipments are at risk. We will continue to monitor the situation, working with our extensive network of carriers and large retail, power and other customers.”

Pinkerton said the company executed thousands of shipments inbound to Florida between Thursday, August 29 and Saturday, August 31, resulting in a 30 percent increase in specific lanes compared to the previous four weeks. 

A significant portion of those shipments were driven by relief efforts and comprised of food and beverages, general retail commodities and building materials.

FreightWaves SONAR can help industry professionals track the storm and its effects. The company has made SONAR available for free through Friday, September 6 in an effort to aid in relief logistics planning. Fill out this form to sign up for SONAR access.

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Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She works with clients to develop sponsored content that tells a story. She worked as reporter and editor at FreightWaves before taking on her current role as Senior Content Marketing Writer. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.