Though Hurricane Ian has finally passed them by, Floridians are now left to pick up the pieces in the wake of gale-force winds and massive storm surges.
Ian, which was upgraded back to a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph from a tropical storm Thursday evening, now barrels toward South Carolina and is set to make landfall Friday afternoon.
As of 12:30 p.m. EDT Friday, nearly 1.9 million Floridians remained without power, with several counties experiencing near-total outages.
“There’s going to be able to be some more [power] restored likely in the relatively near future,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Friday morning. “There is going to be some [infrastructure] that’s going to require some rebuilds.”
In Lee County, a main break has rendered the entire county without water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived on the ground early Friday morning to assess the situation and restore running water.
As previously reported, the logistics impacts could last for weeks — or longer.
Here’s the latest as of 12:30 p.m.:
Roads and bridges start to recover
According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), service on Interstate 75 is now running uninterrupted.
Many roads throughout Orange County remain closed due to flooding. Closures continue to restrict access to several major cities in the path of the storm, including Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers.
Portions of the Florida Turnpike, particularly near Orlando, are closed, while stretches of Interstate 4 are impassable, according to FDOT.
Additionally, DeSantis said that the state has inspected and reopened over 800 bridges, including 67 considered high priority.
However, bridges connecting the mainland to Sanibel Island and Pine Island will need to be rebuilt. The Sanibel Causeway Bridge has sustained breaks in multiple sections, and barges are being run to the island to transport emergency resources.
C.H. Robinson reported that many LTL carriers will continue to have limited to no service in Florida, likely through the weekend. Truckload capacity will continue to be tight.
The company also reported that coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina will see operational changes starting Friday. Delays can be expected for shipments inbound to Florida and some inbound to Georgia and South Carolina.
Florida ports begin to reopen; North Carolina ports enter crosshairs
DeSantis this morning said that the ports of Tampa Bay, Miami and Everglades have all reopened for fueling. Port Tampa Bay in particular is a major refueling site.
Other ports, like the Port of Jacksonville, remain closed.
“I think between [Friday and Saturday], all the ports in the state of Florida up and down both coasts will be operational,” DeSantis said.
The Georgia Ports Authority anticipates vessel service at the Port of Savannah will resume Saturday morning. Gates at Ocean Terminal will be open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, as will terminals at the Port of Brunswick.
Truck Gates 4 and 8 at Garden City Terminal opened at 6 a.m. Friday and will close at 9 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively, while Gate 3 remains closed. On Saturday, only Gate 4 will be open from 6 a.m.-5 p.m.
However, Ian could be major trouble for ports in South Carolina. The Port of Charleston lies in the direct path of the hurricane, which forecasters say is now recording wind gusts up to 80 mph, with 5 to 7 inches of rain and a 3-5 foot storm surge expected for the region.
The supply chain impacts from a closure could be dramatic. The Port of Charleston is a major container and roll-on/roll-off port, so nearby BMW and Volvo automotive plants, cold storage facilities and other shippers will likely see delays through the weekend.
All South Carolina marine port terminals will be closed Friday. Inland ports Greer and Dillon will remain open.
In North Carolina, there will be no vessel operations at the ports of Wilmington and Morehead City due to anticipated high winds. Operations at both ports are expected to resume Saturday pending U.S. Coast Guard approval.
Wilmington’s South Gate and container yard operations will be closed. Container free time will be extended one day unless cargo is already in demurrage. The North Gate will remain open for normal operating hours for general cargo and tenant traffic.
Power outages are expected across the Carolinas, which will impact all sectors, including manufacturing and transportation. Inland flooding is also likely.
Florida railways reopen, but closures could hit Carolinas
Florida East Coast Railway on Thursday announced it has started to resume operations.
CSX issued a similar notice for its Florida services, but it noted that operations in South Carolina and Georgia have been modified. Train operations have resumed between Waycross, Georgia, and Tampa and Winston, Florida.
According to C.H. Robinson, rail carriers have reopened several ramps that were closed due to the storm. Shipments will begin to move slowly, and some delays could still be see through the weekend.
Norfolk Southern services in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are running unimpeded, but the company says it is monitoring the situation in the Carolinas.
Delivery delays reported
FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service and XPO Logistics are reporting delivery delays across the Southeast.
UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday released lists of ZIP codes in Florida where service will be suspended temporarily.
UPS listed almost 1,000 ZIP codes affected by the storm, including Tampa and Orlando. On Wednesday, FedEx listed 383 Florida cities, including Tampa, Orlando and Miami, where Ground services will not currently run.
The Postal Service suspended all retail and delivery operations in several Florida cities, including Orlando and Cocoa.
Logistics providers caution that truckload capacity in Florida will continue in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Many carriers will switch to bringing in items for cleanup and repairs and hauling necessities such as water. Some freight may need to be held because of power outages or impassable roads at destinations, and many LTL carriers continue to have limited to no service in Florida.
Economic impacts to persist
According to Everstream Analytics, flooding in Florida could dampen already weak orange crop yields, which are at their lowest level in 55 years heading into this year’s harvest. Some analysts project an increase in prices that could last nine weeks following the cleanup.
If the storm damages cotton crops in the Carolinas, prices may finally break from record lows and increase costs on textile producers, analysts say.
Meanwhile, several large companies are temporarily shutting down operations in the region. Automaker Mercedes closed its plant in Lansden, North Carolina’ Volvo shut down a facility outside Charleston, South Carolina; and Boeing shuttered its 787 assembly plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, in addition to a second location.
DEK Americas, a chemical producer, has also closed its resins plant in South Carolina.
So far, FEMA teams have delivered 1.1 million meals and 1.6 million liters of water to Florida alone. The agency is securing an additional 5.5 million meals and 6.6 million liters of water to be delivered when conditions are safe.
On Friday morning, FEMA announced that federal emergency aid is now available to South Carolina after President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration.
This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.