I am penning this Supply Chain Matters blog commentary on Friday morning as Hurricane Matthew continues to make its way up the Florida coast. This morning, the central eye of this powerful storm is located just off Daytona Beach Florida and continues on its northward path, with a potential threat of a U.S. landfall looming.  The U.S. Hurricane Center continues to warn residents in the path of this storm to be not only watchful of the potential of significant wind damage but coastal and river flood surges along with significant amounts of rainfall.

Hurricane Matthew

From our lens, sales and operations planning, supply chain planning, operational logistics as well as procurement teams need to pay very close attention to the ongoing and potential effects of this natural disaster since the potential of further supply chain disruption is yet to unfold.

I have been in Orlando Florida this week attending an IBM supply chain focused conference and had the opportunity to hear all of the local and national media coverage of this storm, along with the dire warnings to residents and businesses. This storm presents significant threats as the hurricane makes its way further towards the Southeastern U.S. coastal regions.

We were very fortunate to have been able to catch an early afternoon flight out of Florida yesterday, before the major effects impacted Orlando. However, I already witnessed the activities related to preparedness and emergency response as residents began to expire local food and grocery supplies.

Thus far, this powerful Category 3-4 storm has brought devastation and sadly, the loss of life in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, with more destruction and casualties expected. President Barack Obama has signed federal declarations of emergency for Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, ordering federal aid and allowing federal authorities to coordinate disaster relief efforts in those states. The governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina declared emergencies as well, and more than 7,800 National Guard military personnel have been activated or placed on alert to assist civilian agencies in this ongoing emergency. Likewise, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has been marshaling its emergency response teams to the impacted regions. What continues to concern governmental authorities is that the hurricane’s path will soon impact where the land mass begins to curve out from the Florida coast.

The governors of both South Carolina and Georgia have announced mandatory evacuations involving many of these state’s coastal regions because of the expectations of upwards to 7-10 feet of coastal storm surge with rainfalls of up to 10-12 inches in these regio

Hurrican Matthew

ns. We attach the latest NOAA visual of expected rainfall amounts.

Both of these states are major transportation and logistics hubs for the U.S. Southeast, a region that now includes the presence many automotive, commercial aerospace and other manufacturing focused firms.

The Port of Savannah, as we all know, is a major U.S. East Coast port and logistics hub serving the broader Southeast region, with container ships navigating up the Savannah River to both access and port, and down the river to exit the port. Likewise, the Port of Charleston serves the region as well. As of his morning, the U.S. Coast Guard has closed both of these ports because of the expectation of the gale force winds generated by this hurricane. Respective Port Authorities have likewise suspended all trucking and ocean container logistics activities directly related to these ports. The ports will remain closed to incoming and outgoing vessels until each respective port captain assesses any damage conditions and changes that status, which is expected to be late Sunday or later.

Keep in mind that both of these ports reside in areas that have been susceptible to heavy coastal flooding and excessive rainfall, especially the Savannah River region. Previous significant storms in these areas have resulted in disruption. Air freight facilities, while located in more inland areas could be impacted by storm conditions and heavy rainfall as well. We are well into the most active period for hurricanes  ansd severe storms potentially impacting U.S. East Coast regions.

The timing of this potential disruption is not all that good, coming just prior to the start of the holidays focused retail fulfillment period that begins in about a month’s time. Likewise, automotive and commercial aircraft manufacturers are striving to complete end-of-year or final quarter production commitments.

Thus Supply Chain Matters urges teams to stay abreast of ongoing storm related developments and ascertain if any key suppliers or transportation providers could or have been impacted by the effects of this ongoing hurricane.

We suspect that there will be implications in the days to come and we will keep our readers updated.

Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor