August 29, 2017

As Harvey remains a menace, ALAN lays groundwork for long-term recovery efforts

Warehouse, DC space expected to spring up in Houston, Gulf Coast once floodwaters recede; pop-up warehouse to support huge redistribution operation, Fulton says.

By Mark B. Solomon

[Editor's note: This article was updated on Aug. 30 at 9:54 a.m. ET to reflect recent developments with the storm.]

Humanitarian logistics measures to help rebuild the nation's fourth most populous city and the Texas Gulf Coast are starting to take shape.

In the immediate term, the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which connects logistics resources with organizations involved in disaster recovery efforts, is aiding Houstonians and residents in the state's coastal regions who have been displaced by Hurricane, then tropical storm, Harvey. Kathy Fulton, ALAN's executive director, put out multiple calls today for 10,000 to 100,000 square feet of warehouse space in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, cities that will receive tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of refugees in the coming days. There, relief organizations can store materiel that will be needed for individuals and families to survive in hastily erected shelters.

Once the floodwaters recede and displaced people are provided with temporary housing, ALAN's long-term work will begin. Fulton estimates a network of large warehouses will dot the region to help provide survivors with whatever is necessary to restore their lives. In addition, a huge, "pop-up" type warehouse and DC, the location of which has yet to be determined, will spring up where volunteers will accept donations not designated to a specific relief group. There, they will repackage and palletize the goods as efficiently as possible and distribute them. A state agency will head up the operation and contract out its day-to-day management. Relief organizations can use the warehouse to store and pull goods as needed, Fulton said. Vehicles ranging from private cars to 53-foot trailers will be recruited for inbound moves to the warehouse, while trucks hired by relief organizations will largely handle outbound moves, she said.

Years of work lie ahead in Houston for ALAN, Fulton said. The group still works in areas of the Northeast devastated by Superstorm Sandy nearly five years ago.

For now, ALAN and everybody else can only wait for Harvey to run its course. The storm regenerated itself over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall again this morning, coming ashore east of Houston and near the Texas-Louisiana border where it is drenching Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and countless cities and towns. By the time Harvey departs later today or tomorrow, it is expected to have dropped 50 inches of rain on greater Houston, or as much as the area gets in a year.

The Port of Houston will remain closed today, and Houston's two main airports, George W. Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby, are closed until further notice. Over 500 roadways in southeast Texas were experiencing flood conditions as of this morning, according to a post on the Texas Department of Transportation website. Rail operations have been hamstrung by high waters and the inability of trucks to pick up and deliver goods. Union Pacific Corp. (UP), the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad whose network feeds directly into the area, has suspended operations from Brownsville, Texas, to Lake Charles, La., due to high water and storm damage. UP said it can't access or inspect tracks and facilities in the Houston area until the storms move out and the flooding recedes.

UP said the opening of routes through San Antonio will allow it to run north-south trains between San Antonio and Hearne, Texas, 120 miles northwest of Houston, near College Station, Texas. UP's Laredo, Texas, gateway remains open to interchange traffic with the Mexican railroads, it said.

Atlanta-based UPS Inc., the nation's largest transportation company, has not changed its status since late Monday when it said 728 zip codes in Texas and four in neighboring Louisiana were experiencing some form of disruption.

The Chicago-based information technology provider project44 said it will offer its less-than-truckload (LTL) transit time and visibility products as well as its truckload visibility product free of charge for the next 30 days so that shippers can gain visibility into what has become a compromised trucking network and make informed inventory management decisions. "Real-time visibility can help optimize transportation routes during natural disasters," the company said in a statement. "Accurate, up-to-date transit times allow shippers to better forecast inventory availability and deliver contingency plans for delayed shipments."

Consultancy FTR said that Harvey will "strongly affect" more than 7 percent of U.S. trucking, with about 10 percent of all trucking operations impaired to some degree during the first week. A portion of the country's trucking network will be compromised for as long as two weeks, FTR said. After a month, about 2 percent of the national network and one-quarter of the regional system—skewed heavily towards the Gulf—will be impacted. Regional services will absorb most of the dislocation, FTR said.

About the Author

Mark B. Solomon
Executive Editor - News
Mark Solomon joined DC VELOCITY as senior editor in August 2008, and was promoted to his current position on January 1, 2015. He has spent more than 30 years in the transportation, logistics and supply chain management fields as a journalist and public relations professional. From 1989 to 1994, he worked in Washington as a reporter for the Journal of Commerce, covering the aviation and trucking industries, the Department of Transportation, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to that, he worked for Traffic World for seven years in a similar role. From 1994 to 2008, Mr. Solomon ran Media-Based Solutions, a public relations firm based in Atlanta. He graduated in 1978 with a B.A. in journalism from The American University in Washington, D.C.

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