Businesses and logistics providers along the U.S. Gulf Coast today are keeping a wary eye on the first major storm of the 2019 hurricane season as Tropical Storm Barry continues to gain strength just south of Louisiana.
At the Port of New Orleans, leaders had already closed administrative offices for nonessential personnel today and tomorrow, and announced plans to cease all operations at their container and breakbulk terminals by noon on Friday.
Many corporate supply chains suffered major blows in recent years when hurricanes Florence and Michael wallopped roads, railways, and warehouses in 2018, just a year after hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria struck in 2017. Those massive storms stalled supplies, disrupted deliveries, and required expensive repairs to facilities and infrastructure.
On Thursday, Barry was moving slowly westward across the northern Gulf of Mexico, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Hurricane Center to warn: "There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along the coast of southern and southeastern Louisiana, where a Storm Surge Warning is now in effect."
With heavy rain and wind expected across the north-central Gulf Coast, federal forecasts were warning that more than 10 inches of water is on track to swamp the region, which is home to major container ports including Freeport and Houston, Texas, New Orleans, La., Gulfport, Miss., and Mobile, Ala.
Planners at the Port of Houston were also tracking the storm as it continues to strengthen, but said it was currently plotted to spare that port, making landfall further east. "The Houston metro area is now outside the forecast cone and unlikely to see any significant impacts from Barry," Port Houston Emergency Management said in a statement. "The National Hurricane Center is showing Barry making landfall between Cameron, La., and New Orleans on Saturday as a category 1 hurricane."
In the face of that growing threat, the nonprofit disaster response group American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) is urging U.S. Gulf Coast residents to heed local advisories and warnings, and is asking logistics professionals to be ready to help.
"There's already significant flooding in South Louisiana, especially New Orleans, and if Barry continues on its predicted path, it could bring as much as 15 additional inches of rain to the area," Kathy Fulton, ALAN's executive director, said in a release. "As a result, we have good reason to believe this could be the first significant hurricane of the 2019 season."
ALAN has not yet fielded any requests for assistance, but is closely monitoring the storm's path and strength. The group advises Gulf Coast area businesses to get additional information at LA BEOC (for assistance) or the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP; for tips about preparation).
"On a final note, ALAN encourages Gulf Coast residents to follow the advice of local emergency management and law enforcement officials regarding everything from safely evacuating to sheltering in place - and to use the 'Turn Around, Don't Drown' rule when traveling near flooded areas," Fulton said.
Water is the headline.@NHC_Atlantic is messaging...— National Weather Service (@NWS) July 10, 2019
"Dangerous storm surge is possible in portions of southeast Louisiana, and a Storm Surge Watch has been issued for this area."@NWSWPC is forecasting the potential for well over a foot of rainfall over the next week. pic.twitter.com/a4cvMPBf8v
Editor's note: This article was revised on July 11 to add information about the Port of Houston.