What Happens To Your Freight During A Natural Disaster?

May 30, 2019 by FreightCenter Team
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2017 went down on record as one of the costliest years for natural disasters in the United States, standing at $306 billion in damages.

Last year, Hurricane Michael had a devastating effect on coastal towns, disrupting the supply chain and leaving close to total destruction. Together, Florida and Texas represent nearly 15% of the U.S. economy. This accounts for 7% of country’s trucking activity on a single day. Hurricane Harvey by itself affected 10% of the nation’s trucking capacity after leaving Houston flooded. Extreme weather events affect each sector of the supply chain but knowing what to expect helps ease the stress.

It begs the question: what happens to your freight during a natural disaster?

Securing the Supply Chain

The logistics industry is ready when disaster strikes. Extreme weather events affect each sector (from storms to exposure to extreme heat to flooding, etc.); it’s an interconnected network. These facilities must keep an eye on the other in order to figure out the best course of action.

By Road

Supply chain delays are inevitable when roads are impassable. This could be from debris or flooding, especially since freight trucking is the most common mode of transport. There are 60,000 miles of coastal road in the U.S. alone susceptible to flooding due to storm surges.

Trackable weather events, like storms, give drivers and suppliers the time to prepare accordingly. This could mean altering their route to avoid the storm, or making sure warehouse facilities are prepared to withstand the brunt of the storm when moving goods isn’t a viable option.

Despite delayed delivery times, rest assured that your freight is out of harm’s way and trust your carrier’s disaster preparedness.

By Air

Shipping your freight by air is the quickest way to get your things where they need to be, but unexpected weather phenomena can put a damper on the supply chain. Flights follow strict safety protocols making air shipping especially sensitive to meteorological changes. Disaster isn’t limited to the obvious hurricane or major storm that will keep a plane grounded, but flooding as well. Per the EPA, 13 of the U.S.’s 47 largest U.S. airports has a runway within range of sea level, making them vulnerable to storm surges and flooding.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston it lead to the closure of its two hub airports, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport and the William P. Hobby Airport, for several days. Air shipments were re-routed through surrounding hubs—Atlanta, Chicago, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

The security and timeliness of your freight are of the utmost importance, which is why air cargo takes extra precautions to make sure your shipment is safely on its way.

By Rail

When danger looms, our railways are ready. This includes relocating personnel, moving equipment—cars, cargo, and locomotives—out of harm’s way, and rerouting cargo on its way to its delivery point through other rail hubs. This will lead to shipment delays, but promises the safety of your product.

In an effort to circumvent the effects of damage, rail has taken other precautionary measures in areas frequently affected by natural disaster. Some of these are:

  • Raising tracks and bridges to protect against flooding
  • Clearing train routes of brush to prevent the spreading of wildfire
  • Installing seismic, wind and water detectors along high-risk parts of the rail network
  • Clearing snow from alongside the tracks to prevent avalanches

By Inland Waterways and Sea

A good 14% of our domestic freight is shipped by inland waterways, which are just as affected by flooding as they are draught and decreasing water levels. When waterborne traffic halts, whether by sea or inland waterway, so will other sectors in shipping—over-the-road and rail shipping especially, which is why sea transport is alert to changes in weather to keep your cargo safe and timely.

When an emergency arises, or is imminent, ocean carriers are quick to adapt based on their ship and location. Reroutes and diversions are common on the seas. When ships are at or near port, they will often stay nearby before deciding to move if the weather worsens.

Shipping During A Natural Disaster

Have questions regarding preparedness, supply chain management, or which are the most well-prepared carriers? We’re here to help, give us a call today at 800.716.7608.

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