Maritime ports, intermodal hubs, and trucking fleets along Louisiana’s southern coast are preparing for the impact of yet another hurricane this week, coming just weeks after hurricanes Sally and Laura ravaged the region and as businesses throughout the area are hustling to rebound from Covid pandemic lockdown orders in time to stock up for the winter holiday peak season.
The latest threat to Gulf Coast residents and logistics operations comes from Hurricane Delta, which clipped the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula just south of the resort city of Cancun this morning, and is expected to reach the mainland U.S. by Thursday or Friday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
The storm had reached enormous, Category 4 scale on Tuesday before weakening to Category 2 as it passed over land, but it is now expected to regain its strength as it cruises over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a webinar briefing by Riskpulse, a Texas-based supply chain risk analytics company.
If it follows that forecast, Hurricane Delta could hit land near Lafayette, Louisiana, bringing storm surge waters, heavy rainfall, high winds, and inland flooding. Those forces could pose risks to the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, possibly causing the Port of New Orleans to close its container operations from Thursday to Saturday, Riskpulse said.
Other logistics infrastructure at risk of disruption includes six intermodal hubs in the New Orleans area—featuring BNSF, CSC, NS, and KCS—as well as 11 oil refineries and the interstate highways 10, 12, 55, 49, and 59, according to Riskpulse’s analysis.
Despite the threat, a saving grace of the storm is that it appears to be moving fast enough that it will not linger over vulnerable land areas with prolonged rainfall. “The one good thing about Hurricane Delta is that the storm will be moving rather than stalling out over one specific area, so we not expecting any kind of large scale flooding issue or any kind of major inland flooding event with Delta due to the storm being a mover rather than a staller over the region,” Mark Russo, Riskpulse’s chief science officer, said in the briefing.
The storm is set to strike an area that is still recovering from several recent hurricanes in a year that has already seen historic levels of natural disasters, from the pandemic to heat waves and wildfires. If Delta hits the U.S. coastline as predicted, it would be the 10th named storm to strike the nation this year, breaking a 1916 record for hurricane activity, according to published reports.
After reaching Cat 4 status yesterday afternoon with max winds of 140 mph, #HurricaneDelta has weakened overnight as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula. Max winds are currently 115 mph which makes it a low-end Cat 3 storm - still a major #hurricane. https://t.co/X2HhX6p1Rz pic.twitter.com/zUf8G4HVTP— Riskpulse (@_Riskpulse) October 7, 2020