September 21, 2018

Florence fades away, but flooding, blocked highways, service delays very much alive

I-95 in North Carolina's southern tier remains closed, as do parts of I-40; FedEx, UPS report disruptions, outbound load-to-truck ratios fall.

By DC Velocity Staff

Hurricane Florence has died out, but its legacy of severe flooding, primarily in North Carolina's southern tier, lives on.

The state's Department of Transportation has advised that road conditions in 18 counties are currently too hazardous to travel over. The agency also warned that conditions in many parts of the state may worsen in coming days as flood waters rise and trees topple as root systems weaken due to softened soil.

The agency advised that southbound traffic that would normally take I-95 from Virginia be routed west to I-85 into South Carolina, and follow directions once there to re-access I-95. The port of Wilmington, which has been shut since before the storm made landfall last Friday, will reopen Monday to truck traffic, the port said today. However, no safe or reliable route exists to get in and out of Wilmington, according to NCDOT. The city had been effectively cut off from the rest of the state for days due to severe flooding.

NCDOT also warned that vehicles' GPS systems may direct drivers onto roads that the agency has deemed unsafe.

On Tuesday, eastern railroad CSX Corp. issued an embargo on inbound traffic to facilities located between Wilmington and Lumberton, N.C. to the south. The embargo was to remain in place until it was safe to resume operations, CSX said at the time. CSX has posted no further updates since then.

UPS Inc. said in an update this morning that it continues to suspend service in 117 zip codes in North Carolina and 7 zip codes in South Carolina. FedEx Corp., in an update this morning, said its "FedEx Express" air and international unit had suspended or delayed pick-ups and deliveries in 138 towns in North Carolina and 17 in South Carolina. The company's ground-delivery unit, "FedEx Ground," reported delivery suspensions or delays in 80 towns in North Carolina and four in South Carolina.

As of Monday, the last day of reported data, consultancy DAT Solutions LLC, which tracks non-contract or "spot" market activity, reported that load-to-truck ratios on outbound movements from Roanoke, Va., Greensboro and Raleigh, and Columbia, S.C., were below 1 to 1, meaning there was less than one load post for every truck post. The short-term trend is not surprising because the storm virtually shut down traffic in and out of Wilmington, and caused interstate traffic to take huge detours around the Carolinas, said Peggy Dorf, a DAT market analyst.

"Overall, the impact of Florence appears to be confined to the Carolinas and parts of Virginia, with some ripple effects due to highway and port closures," Dorf said in an e-mail.

I.T. provider Convey reported that, for the week of Sept. 10, less-than-truckload (LTL) and parcel shipments fell 2 percent over the prior week, when Florence was not a factor. Delivery delays and disruptions increased 49 percent week-over-week, Convery said, a clear sign of Florence's impact on service.



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