Logistics professionals and supply chain facilities along Florida’s west coast are bracing today for serious flooding that could be triggered by Hurricane Ian if the storm follows its current track toward the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg region.
The storm is currently a class 3 hurricane but could strengthen to class 4 as it cruises over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico overnight and prepares to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, forecasters said.
The weather system will likely bring hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall, but its most serious threat is a storm surge that will be exacerbated by Florida’s geography, according to a video report from Everstream Analytics, a supply chain risk analysis firm. Because the mouth of Tampa Bay opens to the southwest, the storm’s northern track could push huge amounts of water into that constrained area, forcing floodwaters to rise in all adjacent, low-lying areas.
In the face of that potential flooding, Port Miami and Port Everglades had already stopped accepting incoming traffic by Tuesday morning, and Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee had ordered all vessels away from those facilities. Similar impacts could be seen to the north as the storm progresses toward Savannah and Charleston in coming days, Everstream said.
Despite the storm’s passage through the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico, the oil and gas sector are likely to dodge serious impacts from this storm, but Florida’s agriculture sector may not be as lucky, Everstream said, predicting damage to crops and activities such as citrus, cotton, soy beans, and tobacco.
One reason for that effect is that Florida’s network of interstate highways is vulnerable to flooding, threatening truck traffic along routes 4, 10, 75, and 95. Any stoppage on those major arteries could hamstring warehousing, retailing, and e-commerce activities across the state, Everstream said.
One company already preparing for that scenario is the freight transportation and supply chain management provider Averitt Express, which by Tuesday had closed all business at its Tampa and Ft. Myers locations and was running with limited service at its Miami and Orlando hubs.
More broadly, the region hosts businesses that could see damage to over 4,500 factory sites that produce nearly 74,000 different parts and could require up to 9 weeks to make repairs and recover from the storm’s impact, according to Resilinc, the California-based supply chain resilience firm.
In the face of those threats, the nonprofit group American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) is already preparing disaster recovery efforts, urging Florida and Gulf Coast residents to prepare, and asking members of the logistics community who aren’t located near the storm’s path to be ready to help.
“Over the next few days Hurricane Ian has the potential to deliver high winds, strong rains and a significant storm surge across many parts of Florida. We are mobilizing accordingly,” Kathy Fulton, ALAN’s executive director, said in a release.
ALAN fields and fills specific requests for logistics help after disasters, steering donations of products and services by collaborating with members of the non-profit and disaster relief community as well as government and industry officials.
“Over the years we’ve seen some potentially catastrophic hurricanes that have turned into relatively minor events while others have morphed into far more deadly and destructive events than expected,” Fulton said. “We are praying that Hurricane Ian will turn out to be the former. However if it isn’t, we want people to remember that ALAN is here to help – and to do everything in their power to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”