Laura & Logistics: A Road to Recovery Ahead
2020 feels like it’s been an impossibly eventful year. From a pandemic and fires to political upheaval, murder hornets, and a hurricane, it continuously seems like nothing else could impact us. However, the US just experienced category 4 Hurricane Laura ravaging the Texas-Louisiana coast. With wind speeds of over 145 mph, CNN describes Laura as, “the most powerful August hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Katrina hit 15 years ago.”
This is how the National Hurricane Center describes hurricanes of this magnitude:
"Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted, and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
CBS News reports that “at least 20 million people are in the storm's path and over half a million people have been ordered to evacuate.” Although Louisiana and Texas are no stranger to experiencing hurricanes, this is the first time since we began keeping record that a category 4 or 5 hurricane has hit these particular areas. Officials worry that not enough people are taking the hurricane seriously and evacuating as ordered. NPR has published Nic Hunter’s, Mayor of Lake Charles’s statement as follows:
"I will be brutally honest," he said, "we are very concerned that not enough people are evacuating." These are comments following Texan Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that “the power of Hurricane Laura is unprecedented.” Evacuation poses a problem for the population affected by Laura since the storm surge is already set to cause extreme damage, and any delay in evacuation could see the roads flooding before everyone is able to get out. And once wind speeds reach about 40 mph, driving on the roads becomes unsafe to the point where it would be difficult for even law enforcement to reach you.
COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura
To add to the complications, COVID-19 still thrives during August 2020, and Hurricane Laura does nothing to give it pause. CNN news sources spoke to relevant officials from Texas and Louisiana, where they shared details on how they are attempting to stem coronavirus related issues and simultaneously keeping as many people as they can safe. This includes securing hotel rooms with limited guests rather than providing the normal shelter housing and having extra buses to transport people while implementing social distancing measures. It also means a pause in testing, during an especially crucial time when schools are reopening.
The Impact on Freight
As for the impact to logistics, companies began repositioning freight as early as last week in preparation for Laura. One concern is the blow expected to be endured by the energy sector of the US. “[The hurricane] has prompted 82% of oil output and 57% of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico to be shut, according to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.” The lack of production indicates a possible increase in fuel prices as a result of decreased supply, which also happened after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017. This, in turn, has an inevitable impact on fuel and load adjustments.
As written by Freight Waves, “The potential for disruptions to the nation’s fuel and shipping infrastructure is significant, according to Ben Ruddell, director of the FEWSION project at Northern Arizona University. [...]
Downed trees and road closures are major concerns along Interstate 10, according to Mark Russo, chief science officer for Riskpulse, an Austin, Texas-based supply chain analytics firm. I-10 runs east-west through Louisiana and Texas. Russo said during a Tuesday webinar briefing by Riskpulse that high winds and flooding could also close some stretches of Interstate 45, which stretches from Dallas to the Gulf Coast.”
It is highly encouraged that anyone who may be affected by Hurricane Laura follow the guidelines provided to them by their local and national officials. Stay safe and tuned in for more relevant information.