Following quickly after Hurricane Harvey comes Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean. According to the National Hurricane Center, the current forecast track calls for the storm to approach south Florida on Saturday, with Miami squarely in its possible track. The potential for substantial supply chain disruption up the Eastern seaboard is significant.
Authorities on Thursday ordered more than 650,000 people to evacuate the Miami area as Hurricane Irma moves toward a possible collision with the mainland U.S. Hurricane and storm-surge warnings were officially issued for south Florida including the Florida Keys. Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday expressed worry about the breadth of the storm and flooding potential as he warned residents to heed evacuation orders.
“Look at the size of this storm, it’s huge,” Scott said. “It’s wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts on both coasts.”
As Florida evacuees began to jam highways and back up traffic on Thursday amid worries about gasoline shortages in the state, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday also ordered a mandatory evacuation for all areas east of Interstate 95 starting Saturday, including Savannah, home to about 147,000 people. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster said he may issue a mandatory evacuation order effective Saturday morning—and that there would be lane reversals on I-26 which runs north from Charleston.
McMaster further warned there could be a burden on South Carolina highways due to residents fleeing Florida and Georgia, and I-95 was already congested on Thursday as people drove north. “If you can leave now, go ahead,” he said.
Hurricane Irma has already disrupted shipping operations as it churned across Caribbean islands. The storm is hitting oil tanker movements, with transshipment hubs in the Caribbean shut down. Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co. said at least 10 vessels would drop or delay calls to several ports.
Florida’s Port Canaveral has already closed commercial operations in preparation for the arrival of the Hurricane Irma. The Canaveral Port Authority released all non-essential employees from work at close of business yesterday, acting on the Brevard County Florida evacuation order.
“As of 12 Midnight tonight, all non-hurricane port operations will have ceased,” the port authority said in a release.
Further north, the Georgia Ports Authority says it will shut down operations at the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick, Saturday through Tuesday. Truck gates will close at 6 p.m. tonight in Savannah, while vessel operations will end at midnight. The Port of Savannah won’t accept empty container returns today. At Colonel’s Island and Mayor’s Point terminals in Brunswick, gates will close at 5 p.m. Friday.
“The safety of our employees and partners in the maritime community is our highest concern,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “We encourage GPA staff and our neighbors to heed Governor Deal’s warning and evacuate ahead of the storm.”
Hurricane season is still at its peak, and Irma isn’t the only threat on the horizon. Hurricane Jose strengthened to a Category 4 storm in the Atlantic yesterday and triggered a hurricane watch in Antigua and Barbuda. A third storm, Hurricane Katia, is now threatening Mexico.
For companies with supply chains, especially distribution centers, in the busy South East, revising risk mitigation centered around hurricanes and their aftermath should be an ongoing strategy. If your company or supply chain partners are in those areas, how are operations changing this week to prepare for potential disruptions following the storm? Also, what plans are in place for next week?
Stay safe, everybody.