(JP Hampstead and John Kingston contributed to this story.)
Areas of flooding and widespread debris from Hurricane Michael have blocked or closed roads along the Florida Panhandle, but it hasn’t stopped relief efforts or caused major disruption in the movement of goods across the affected region.
Almost 80 miles of Interstate 10 in Florida are closed, according to the Florida 511 website (fl511.com). All eastbound lanes are closed from mile marker 85 at US-331 to just east of the Apalachicola River at mile marker 160. All westbound lanes of Interstate 10 are closed from the river to mile marker 120, at the junction with state road 77. Florida Highway Patrol is reporting blocked or closed sections of US-98 along the coast from Apalachicola to Perry.
This page from the state of Florida shows numerous other closures under the category of debris in roadway, but other than I-10, no other interstate highways.
FreightWaves spoke to executives from ReedTMS, an asset-based 3PL headquartered in Tampa, who said that the company was still able to move freight between Central Florida and Ft. Worth, Texas, by diverting trucks to I-20, which adds about 50 miles to the trip.
"I think we know there's devastation and we know people are suffering, but as far as logistics, moving stuff from left to right, the only thing we've seen are detours or holdups on I-10," Mike Ryan, a branch manager with ReedTMS said. Ryan said his company had trucks lined up to move into the area to help an unidentified restaurant chain move its inventory out of stores without power and into refrigerated vehicles, but that only about 30% of their capacity that had been in place for that task needed to be utilized.
Jason Reed, the company's CEO, said Florida escaped more damage because the landfall point for the storm was in a relatively low-populated area. As a result, "we're still getting produce to and from Fort Worth to central Florida, and disruptions are not stopping us."
The hurricane did shut down some logistics facilities located directly in its path. Officials from Old Dominion Freight Line (NASDAQ: ODFL) tell FreightWaves that they moved freight to higher ground ahead of the storm. Four of its five operating sites in Georgia are closed, according to the company’s website, as well as their site in Dothan, Alabama. Their one site on the Florida Panhandle, in Pensacola, is operating at 70%.
From Pensacola to Tallahassee, a 175-mile stretch, more than 330,000 power outages have been reported, almost 800,000 across the entire Southeast. The worst damage is from Panama City through Apalachicola. According to the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott, more than 19,000 power restoration personnel had been pre-positioned and are ready to respond. Teams from Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT) and the military were also in place. Overall, relief operations seem to be going smoothly.
To ensure this, Perry tweeted Thursday morning asking people to stay where they are. It can be dangerous and disruptive to relief groups if people try to travel through affected areas. He also said that, following his request, President Donald Trump issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Hurricane Michael so the affected areas receive as much additional aid as possible.
The map below shows GPS pings from trucks at the time of Hurricane Michael’s landfall superimposed on a satellite image of the region. It’s obvious from the map that trucking capacity evacuated the area where the storm was expected to have the biggest impact.
The expected reversal of oil and natural gas shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico has begun. On Thursday, the Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement reported that 40% of Gulf of Mexico oil production was shut in, or 680,107 b/d. The prior day, it was 42.3%. The amount of natural gas shut in Thursday was 744 MMcf/d, or 29.1%. A day earlier, it ws 31.7%.
Also, the two main lines of the Colonial Pipeline, which takes oil products through the southeast and up into the New York and Washington areas, were "not in the line of the storm," according to a Colonial statement quoted by S&P Global Platts. Colonial has been impacted in the past by power outages and the oil products markets generally are concerned with that occurrence during a storm, rather than any damage to the facility.
A bit of good news is that fuel supplies needed for successful relief operations are in decent supply. This is what Ned Bowman, Executive Director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association tells FreightWaves about the situation in the panhandle:
"[We saw] a lot of buying before the storm, a lot of fuel movement: people run to grocery stores and gas stations and clear off the shelves. Fuel supplies are good—adequate. We had a few days of a big push, then a lull. 70% of the gas stations are up and running, and 30% are still down. State is working as hard as they can to get the infrastructure back up and running.”
The officials from ReedTMS concurred, saying getting fuel has not been an issue for their trucks in the region.
Michael is one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. based on wind speed and barometric pressure. It’s the only Category 4 storm that has ever hit the Florida Panhandle. It’s now a Tropical Storm with winds of 50 mph and could cause power outages and flash flooding tonight in parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic states before moving into the Atlantic Ocean early Friday.