Relief supplies began flowing into Texas and Louisiana on Monday as the battered region began recovering from Hurricane Delta’s Friday delivery of destructive winds and dangerous floodwaters, the third hurricane to wallop the Gulf Coast in just six weeks.

The latest storm forced offshore energy production facilities to evacuate workers and halt operations, causing the greatest impact on U.S. Gulf of Mexico energy production in 15 years, as most of the region’s oil and nearly two-thirds of its natural gas output came to a halt, according to published reports.

The storm also shuttered many ports, highways, and intermodal hubs throughout the region, disrupting freight movements shortly after hurricanes Sally and Laura had caused similar problems. The relentless repetition of storms has also compounded the challenge for a U.S. economy that has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic and an associated recession, as well as other natural disasters like raging wildfires that continue to char California.

One group that is mobilizing assets to aid in the recovery is the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), a charitable disaster relief organization which solicits and directs donations of logistics capabilities. “Our hearts go out to all of the people on the Gulf Coast who’ve been affected,” ALAN Executive Director Kathy Fulton said in a release. “In a year with an unprecedented number of named storms, this is an incredible blow to a region that has already been very hard hit.”

ALAN has been tracking Hurricane Delta’s supply chain impacts throughout the week and expects to begin receiving its first logistics relief requests later this week, she said. “This is when the hardest work for ALAN begins – because as relief organizations get in and assess the damage, they’ll be asking us for a great deal of help,” said Fulton. “In light of that, we encourage people to access our Disaster Micro-site’s active needs section often in the weeks and months ahead – and not just for Hurricane Delta. 

One of the newest tools available to aid workers during the 2020 hurricane season is a technology platform that taps into the telematics of “connected vehicles” to provide affected states with real-time reports on traffic jams as businesses and residents evacuate—and then flood back home again—in reaction to storms. A coalition of groups this year provided the Departments of Transportation of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia with that traffic monitoring system, allowing traffic managers to avoid congestion on major escape routes by implementing lane direction reversals to increase capacity.

“In today’s transportation planning world, the problem has been turning the vast amounts of available connected vehicle and mobility data into useful information that helps planners and agencies make informed decisions,” Eimar Boesjes, the CEO of database technology company Moonshadow, said in a release. Moonshadow collaborated on that solution with vehicle data access provider Wejo, the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT) Lab, and public agency collaboration consortium the Eastern Transportation Coalition.

That type of data could also be helpful in helping to mitigate some of the ripple effects caused on freight markets by blockages to typical truck patterns. According to Portland, Oregon-based DAT Freight & Analytics, hurricanes usually affect freight movements in three stages.

Before the storm, shippers rush to move freight in and out of the area where the storm is expected to make landfall, and truckload rates rise sharply, DAT said. During the storm, nothing moves in or out of the affected area, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may move relief supplies to locations just outside the danger zone. And after the storm passes, emergency supplies surge in to the area, causing a spike in inbound rates.

Shippers, carriers, warehouses, and relief workers will be moving through that final stage this week, now that extreme weather conditions are finally allowing safe movement. “We know most people have hurricane and disaster fatigue, because this has been a year like no other,” ALAN’s Fulton said. “However we hope they have it in them to help the Gulf Coast at least one more time, because the transportation services, warehousing space, forklifts, boxes, and other support we provide can make a hugely positive difference to so many. ALAN certainly isn’t relaxing our efforts, and we hope they won’t either.”


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