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Hurricane Florence Update: Impacts, Forecasts, and Operational Best Practices

Posted by Andrew Beso | September 19, 2018


After making landfall last week, Hurricane Florence is crawling northeast along the U.S.'s east coast. Despite weakening from a Category 4 storm to a Category 1, the storm is disrupting everyday life and wreaking havoc on infrastructure. Last week we published this breakdown of what to expect from Florence, as well as a list of best practices to help businesses defend their operations from the elements. Here are the latest updates. 

SEPT 19 UPDATES:

  • Over 200 roads in South Carolina, and 1000 roads (including major highways) in North Carolina have been closed. Parts of I-95 could remain flooded through the weekend, cutting off access to Wilmington.
  • Storm surge remains one of the biggest risks, and residents in the Carolinas are being warned of flood threats well into the rest of the week.
  • North Carolina's Cape Fear river is rising and is expected to crest at 62 feet today, threatening 12,000 residents as it floods the surrounding area.
  • Analysts warned last week that Hurricane Florence could cost retailers $700 million. Target readied 130 stores and 20,000 employees for impact, while other major brands closed or reduced their hours. 
  • UPS postponed deliveries and pickups in evacuation zones, but is helping large customers make contingency plans for packages that are in risk zones. USPS also paused operations across North Carolina and other affected regions, but did resume services in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties.
  • The Ports of Charleston and Savannah have resumed business as usual. After thousands of cancelled flights, flight schedules in the Carolinas' major airports are also gradually returning to normal.

 

September 12, 2018

Supply Chain Impact and Potential Disruptions:


  • As early as Wednesday, September 12, as a safety precaution, operations at Charleston International Airport in South Carolina and Port of Wilmington in North Carolina were halted until further notice. The Port of Charleston will also be closed starting Thursday, September 13, with the possibility of reopening on Sunday.
  • Several companies in the Carolinas and Georgia that are within the projected path of Florence have also halted operations. DowDupont sites in North Carolina’s Charlotte, Greenboro, and Fayetteville will have work suspensions. Agricultural companies Cargill and Smithfield Foods Inc. closed down their sites in North Carolina as well. Pfizer, Boeing, Daimler and other companies followed suit and advised employees to remain at home.
  • Duke Energy along with other utility officials anticipate that the hurricane could result in widespread power outages affecting millions of customers. Authorities warn that the electricity restoration efforts could last for weeks.
  • Disruptions in land travel have already begun. The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut to accommodate motorists travelling inland. Forecasts also warn that as heavy rains start pouring, flooded roadways may isolate many communities.


Response:


Forecasts and Updates:

  • Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover County, North Carolina at about 7 AM local time. Reports warn that the rise in seawater above dry land could reach to tsunami-like size of up to 13 feet.
  • 525,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in North Carolina, and nearly 1,500 flights have been canceled through the weekend.
  • The Hurricane Center has warned that, similar to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Florence will linger in the southeastern states for days. The prolonged heavy rainfall, expected to unload 20 to 40 inches of rain, will produce life-threatening freshwater flooring.
  • Other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, were also found trailing Florence. Although Hurricane Helene is likely to stay far from land and remain in the open Atlantic, Isaac will bring heavy rain to Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe.


Best Practices:

  • The case of Florence is highly reminiscent to that of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Even though it’s weakened in category (like Harvey did), forecasters say that Florence will most likely linger in the region and will continuously drop heavy rainfall. This means that companies should not just prepare for the impact of a hurricane but also for its prolonged disruptions (flooding and power outage).
  • The disaster that struck Texas last year was a learning opportunity for infrastructure development, especially in ensuring that critical structures (dams, catch basins, breakwaters) for natural calamities are well-conditioned. This entails a close coordination of residents, the private sector, and state officials. A careful examination of risk-prone areas and poorly-maintained structures should be reported before the hurricane season begins. At the end of the day every sector will be impacted by a natural calamity of this scale, so every stakeholder must be invested in disaster reduction efforts.


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