The mega-storm called Sandy began breaking up as it headed through the Great Lakes to Canada, leaving behind a life-altering trail of destruction that will take weeks, if not months, to repair.
By the morning of Oct. 31, Sandy's remnants had reached the lower Great Lakes region, where gale-force warnings were in effect for some areas. The storm was expected to pass over far northern New England and eastern Canada later in the day.
With Sandy essentially history, officials in the U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic focused on rescuing those who stayed behind to ride out the storm and assessing the damage before commencing a long and arduous rebuilding process. Meanwhile, the region's supply chain continued to make slow but steady progress toward recovery.
The marine terminals at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would remain closed at least into Oct. 31, the Port Authority said in an alert issued late the previous day. That statement did not sound optimistic about a quick return to business, noting that there was still no electricity and "no time frame" for when it would be restored. The port's channels are closed, access roads are covered with debris, traffic signals are out, rail track has been "compromised," and fence lines are in "widespread disrepair," according to the statement.
Better news emerged from the ports of Virginia and Baltimore, which were both open as of Oct. 31. However, the Port of Virginia, which encompasses facilities in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, and elsewhere in the state, said the storm's widespread impact would affect vessel schedules "across the entire East Coast port range."
CSX Corp., one of the two main eastern railroads, was working to restore service on lines running between Philadelphia and Albany, N.Y. Trackage there was affected by high water, downed trees, and power outages. In an Oct. 31 statement, CSX warned that deliveries would be delayed by three days or longer.
Norfolk Southern Corp., the second eastern railroad, said service would return by Nov. 1 to "lightly impacted areas" of its network. However, areas the railroad described as "heavily impacted" may not have service until week's end. The railroad did not specify which areas were heavily impacted and which were not.
AIR TRAFFIC TRAVAILS
John F. Kennedy International Airport, probably the nation's most important air cargo facility, resumed limited flights on Oct. 31. The lack of electricity seems to be the airport's biggest problem at this time. A freight forwarding source said power outages are affecting trucking operations and causing delays in customs clearance.
Many forwarders at JFK have rerouted shipments to westward points, holding them for delivery until order is fully restored, the source said.
UPS Inc. said it has resumed all small package and freight operations except in parts of New Jersey, the New York borough of Staten Island, and mountainous areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to Susan L. Rosenberg, a UPS spokeswoman. The company is also operating at all U.S. airports, including JFK, where it resumed service the afternoon of Oct. 31.
Rival FedEx Corp.'s FedEx Express air unit has temporarily suspended service to approximately 2,100 cities in 12 states and the District of Columbia, according to an Oct. 31 service alert on the Memphis, Tenn.-based company's website. The company's FedEx Ground parcel unit and FedEx Freight less-than-truckload (LTL) unit experienced significantly fewer service suspensions, according to the alert.
Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., one of the nation's leading LTL carriers, is transacting business throughout the region, according to Chip Overbey, senior vice president, strategic development, for the Thomasville, N.C.-based trucker. "At this point, we are picking up and delivering freight in the areas that are open with power and where customers are ready for service," Overbey said Oct. 31 in an e-mail.
Overbey added that Old Dominion is operating at between 60 percent and 70 percent of capacity in such badly hit areas as south-central New Jersey and on Long Island. "To the degree the customers are open, working, and we can get to them, then we are servicing them," he said.
Only the carrier's Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., service centers are operating well below capacity. That's because they serve Manhattan and the New Jersey shore, both of which were battered by Sandy, Overbey said, adding that both service centers have power and communication capabilities.
Omaha, Neb.-based truckload carrier Werner Enterprises Inc., which has a large presence in the Northeast, is experiencing lingering delays due to road closures, according to Derek J. Leathers, Werner's president and chief operating officer. Leathers said in a telephone interview that customers could expect delays of one to two days.
Werner currently has extra trucks in the Northeast because it will be involved in relief efforts on behalf of its customers and aid groups such as the American Red Cross, Leathers said. Werner is a big player in the temperature-controlled transportation category, and specialized "reefer" equipment will be in high demand in the coming days and perhaps weeks.
One potential long-term impact of the storm and subsequent rebuilding is that it might exacerbate an ever-worsening shortage of truckload drivers, Leathers said. The restoration efforts will require a huge number of construction workers—people who might otherwise have considered obtaining a commercial drivers license and getting behind the wheel had the disaster not intervened, he said.
ALAN READY FOR ACTION
The American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which connects logistics resources with the needs of governments and organizations providing disaster relief, is gearing up for what will be its first major stateside test since it was formed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. John "Jock" Menzies, ALAN's president, said governments and relief organizations are "just now identifying their needs" and will soon be making requests of resource providers.
Highest on the list, according to Menzies, will be refrigerated transportation equipment and so-called "mega-pumps" designed to rid the infrastructure of standing water.
Menzies expects relief organizations' need for logistics support to be fluid. He noted that governments and organizations go into a disaster with a requirements list, but once they are immersed in the work, they typically find there are tools or resources they need but didn't initially ask for.
The one certainty, Menzies said, is that the post-Sandy relief work will not be brief. "This is going to take a long time," he said. "If you've seen footage of the New Jersey shore, you know it's going to take a while to undo the mess that's been left."