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Hurricane Florence: What You Need to Know About the Year's First Major Storm

Posted by Janie Ryan | September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence is predicted to be one of the strongest storms on the Eastern seaboard in decades. It will deliver tropical-storm-level winds by noon Thursday to North Carolina's coast, and hurricane-force winds and dangerous storm surges by late Thursday or early Friday. Many sources are warning that Florence will be the most intense storm to strike the region in at least 25 years, since Hurricane Hugo, which was a Category 4 and sustained winds of 140 mph.

Continue reading for the latest updates and forecasts about Florence and other impending storms, as well as a list of best practices to help your supply network weather the impact.

 

Hurricane Florence and More: What We Know So Far
  • Hurricane Florence was marked a Category 4 storm, but has been downgraded to Category 3 because of slight reductions in wind speed. As of 11 AM ET on Wednesday, it’s travelling about 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina and roughly 520 miles east-southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with winds of about 125 mph, according to the NHC.
  • The storm is already generating waves as high as 83 feet as it surges towards the East Coast.
  • Hurricane Florence isn’t the only storm threatening communities and businesses right now. Hurricane Isaac was recently reclassified as a tropical storm, but scientists say its effects could still be hurricane-level. The storm is expected to reach Puerto Rico on Friday morning with winds up to 73 mph. Additionally, category 2 storm Helene, currently off the coast of Africa, is expected to crawl towards Europe after losing speed. Tropical storm Olivia has prompted storm warnings in Hawaii, with an expected 5-10 inches of flooding to affect the main islands. Residents and businesses have been warned of damaging winds, storm surge, and flooding.

For residents and businesses in the Carolinas and neighboring states, it’s vital to take all evacuation warnings and damage estimates seriously. Hurricane tracking maps don’t always show the entirety of the area that will be impacted. Even when there appears to be clearly delineated lines that leave your supply chain outside of risk zones, your sites can still experience winds, floods, and storms that will impede your operations indefinitely. You should act as if areas even dozens of miles outside the borders of these hazy “cones of uncertainty” WILL be impacted.

Another good-to-know: storm surge — the effects of the raging winds on coastal waters — doesn’t correlate with storm categories, and in fact they can be far more detrimental to infrastructure and human life than the winds themselves. Storm surge can impact areas beyond the coast. The real risk to look out for is flooding — which is catalyzed by surging waters from the coast and is likely to be exacerbated if you are near any rivers.

 

Forecasted Effects on Environment, Communities, and Supply Chains

  • Like last year’s Hurricane Harvey, Florence is expected to stall when it reaches the coast, allowing the storm to dump a devastating amount of rain across the Carolinas. Like Hurricane Harvey, Florence could remain over the Southeast for several days after landfall, unloading 15 to 25 inches of rain and isolated amounts of up to 40 inches.
  • Due to unusual atmospheric conditions, Florence may head down the Southeast coast, heading for South Carolina. Experts are warning that South Carolina residents should prepare to evacuate.
  • Storm surges along the coastline could bring up to 15 feet of water, depending on where the eye of the storm comes ashore.
  • High winds could take down power lines, and the massive rainfall could flood equipment. Authorities have warned that the millions of people under Florence’s impact could be without electricity for weeks.
  • Hurricane Florence’s path may affect over 4,000 manufacturing and distribution facilities in the Carolinas and Georgia, potentially impacting suppliers to multiple sectors.
  • Auto parts suppliers are one of the most exposed industries in the three states, owning 239 production and distribution facilities.
  • The pork and poultry supply chains are also expected to be affected. Major brands, including Tyson and Hornel, have over 300 facilities in the impacted regions.

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Evacuations and Shutdowns

  • Over 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate in the Carolinas and Virginia.
  • Hurricane and storm surge warnings were put in place from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, beginning 36 hours before the storm is expected to reach land.
  • South Carolina’s Charleston airport will be closing Wednesday night at 11:59 PM ET, with reliever airports Mount Pleasant Regional Airport and Charleston Executive Airport closing at 5 PM ET.
  • The alarming track of Florence led Georgia’s governor to declare a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon for all of the state’s 159 counties, home to 10.5 million people.
  • South Carolina’s governor had canceled mandatory evacuation for several coastal counties on Tuesday. But today, officials in Beaufort County, home to Hilton Head Island, held a news conference urging people to leave voluntarily.
  • There are 16 nuclear reactors in the projected region of impact. Personnel at the Brunswick station, which is closest to where landfall is forecast, have prepared for a shutdown.
  • The storm has forced the closing of hundreds of schools. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke and North Carolina State universities canceled classes through the weekend.
  • Boeing and Volvo shut down their Charleston factories, putting thousands of workers and machinery to a standstill.

 

Operational Best Practices

  • Recognize that there is a big gap in weather forecasts and actionable information — the ultimate best practice is to err on the side of caution, always.
  • Weather charts and forecasts can underestimate impact. Prepare for the worst. Create models and scales customized to your supply chain’s potential impact, to help your teams and at-risk supply chain locations better visualize the risk.
  • Storm surges make headlines, but they are just the beginning of potentially weeks of compromised delivery routes and warehouse operations. Mitigate this as much as possible by moving at-risk inventory to strategic locations.
  • Get support from the logistics community. The American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) has a dedicated Hurricane Florence website, and is reaching out to businesses to coordinate warehousing, transportation, and logistics aid.
  • Keep abreast of forecasts: predictive technology for storm surge models and other weather systems have been upgraded in the last decade, and the hurricane center’s public warning systems have also significantly improved.  
  • Transparency is key: master your information and rally your troops. Staying proactive is still the best approach. For a more detailed rundown of what to do, revisit our disaster guide here.


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