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Sept.18, 2017

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TRADING PLACES 46 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE Peter Tirschwell SEPTEMBER 18.2017 HARVEY'S HEAVY TOLL AS TEXAS AND other areas of the US Gulf region recover from the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, the dimensions of the storm are becom- ing clear. From a logistics standpoint, the immediate impact was limited, with minimal damage to roads, rail lines, and ports. The Port of Houston, which experienced minimal dam- age, was able to reopen on Sept. 1, two days after the depleted Harvey made its final landfall in Louisiana. The longer-term effects, which can't be minimized, will be felt mostly in landside capacity, with drivers and trucks diverted to what will be an extraordinary rebuilding effort likely to last well more than a year. As attention turns to Hurricane Irma, what will remain in the wake of Harvey is mostly the human toll of a mega-storm that made landfall on the Texas coast south of Houston on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane. The strongest to hit the US in 121 years, Harvey meandered around the region for several more days as a weakening hurricane and tropical storm. It was still a named storm 117 hours after landfall, according to the Weather Channel. The storm, the first Category 3 or higher hurricane to hit the US since Wilma hit South Florida in 2005, dropped as much as 52 inches of rainfall in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, shattering all-time US continental tropical cyclone rain records and leaving an estimated 60 dead. The lasting effects will be felt mostly as a result of the deluge of rainfall. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 homes in Houston alone were damaged or destroyed by the storm, leaving more than 50,000 temporarily or permanently home- less, a nd triggering a massive rebuilding effort that will last years. One of those homes belongs to Todd Stewart, president of Gulfwinds International, the Houston-based drayage- and transload-focused 3PL. Operationally, the company got back on its feet quickly. "From a company perspective, we had very limited damage. We were able to get back to work rela - tively quickly last week," Stewart said on Sept. 5, noting that only six trucks out of its Houston fleet of 220 were out of service, and that Gulf- winds was operating at 90 percent capacity on the trucking side and 100 percent capacity at its ware- houses. "I am very encouraged by that. We're trying to help those guys get back out on the road." He personally wasn't so lucky. His home in Kingwood, just north of Houston, was flooded with seven feet of water, which he documented in widely viewed photos posted on LinkedIn. "We never even had water in our house," he said. With the water rapidly rising, he and his family were forced to evacuate. "In a matter of a couple of hours, the water had come up pretty dramatically, like a foot. I knew it was rising a lot faster, so I got my wife and my kids and we got out at that point." The neighborhood was devas- tated; his daughter's school building has been declared closed for the entire school year with the students now sharing space with another school. The first floor of his house is down to the studs with huge bags of garbage out front and fans blowing 24-7 to dry the place out and limit mold damage. Where logistics will be impacted most on an ongoing basis is in the rebuilding effort for what could become the costliest US natural disaster in history, with a price tag of $160 billion, according to the pri- vate weather firm AccuWeather. Trucking capacity, in particular, will gravitate toward support for the rebuilding effort, taking capac- ity away from regular regional cargo demands from commodities such as cotton and resins. Some drivers will switch work to construction. As businesses slowly return to normal operations, local truck- ing companies are stepping in to provide emergency relief, hauling goods into Houston and around the many neighborhoods swamped by flooding. Brian Fielkow, CEO of Hous- ton-based trucker Jetco, said he has never seen a storm like Harvey, or anything like its aftermath. "The thing that blows me away is the resiliency of the people," Fielkow said. "The can-do, volunteer spirit is all alive and well. Nobody's walk- ing around defeated." Despite that resiliency, this will not be a quick recovery, my col- league Bill Cassidy wrote. "For the next several months, it's not going to be business as usual," Fielkow said. "I've asked our customers to over- communicate with us. Getting a truck may be more difficult. There's a backlog of cargo to get through. There's going to be a local capac- ity shortage for commercial freight as recovery efforts ramp up, Fielkow said, as much local trucking power is dedicated to bringing in building supplies and other materials. A simi- lar situation happened in the New Orleans market following Katrina. JOC Contact Peter Tirschwell at and follow him on Twitter: @petertirschwell. "The can-do, volunteer spirit is all alive and well. Nobody's walking around defeated."

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