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Logistics sector prepares for Hurricane Dorian and the aftermath

It’s business as usual for transportation providers and freight hubs serving the Southeast market, but as Hurricane Dorian approaches they are quickly implementing contingency plans for safety and post-storm recovery.

Ports, airlines, railroads and relief agencies say they are monitoring the storm while taking steps to protect personnel, minimize damage to assets and move in with supplies once it passes.

As of Thursday afternoon, Dorian is about 190 miles southeast of Florida and forecasters expect it to intensify into a major Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, by the time outer bands hit the mainland on Monday, September 2. Forecasters say it could come ashore anywhere along the Florida coast, but the exact path remains uncertain and could change in the coming days.

The seaports of Jacksonville, Canaveral, Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and Miami are all at potential risk, but so far remain open with no restrictions. Depending on the storm’s path, cargo vessels are expected to move out to sea where they are safer.

Airlines say it’s too early to adjust operations without greater certainty about where Dorian will make landfall, especially since hurricanes sometimes turn back out to sea.

“When local evacuation orders are issued, we secure our facilities and send employees home, to secure their homes and ensure the safety of their families,” UPS Airlines spokesman Jim Mayer said. Once the company’s meteorological team has a good projection of the storm’s path the company will move aircraft out of harm’s way, he added.

Potential precautions at FedEx could include adjusting flight schedules, repositioning aircraft away from the storm area, and ensuring shipments can be moved as quickly as possible to safely accessible areas after the hurricane passes, spokeswoman Shannon Davis said. The integrator is also prepositioning supplies for its operations and employees, such as water, ready-to-eat meals, generators and fuel.

American Airlines, the major U.S. carrier into Latin America, has issued a travel alert for airports in Florida, including its Miami hub, but has not canceled any flights so far. Delta Air Lines says it doesn’t anticipate any hurricane-related impact to flight schedules through Friday. Both airlines carry freight in their belly holds.

Three large railroads – Norfolk Southern, CSX and the Florida East Coast Railway – are expected to experience disruptions. CSX said it is taking precautions to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the American Logistics Aid Network is mobilizing to coordinate free logistics assistance to disaster relief organizations.

The organization’s staff has begun daily conference calls with logistics providers and government agencies to coordinate upcoming deliveries, and reaching out to non-profit organizations to determine what resources they may need, Executive Director Kathy Fulton said in an e-mail.

Preliminary work also involves reviewing the infrastructure and industries likely to be affected so ALAN can best match logistics providers and relief groups.

ALAN has activated a Hurricane Dorian Micro-site, where the humanitarian organization will be posting requests for assistance and links to helpful community resources.

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