Aug 31, 2017
At 10 pm on Friday August 25th, a Category 4 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour slammed into the Corpus Christi area on its way to Houston. Stalling between Rockport and Galveston, Hurricane Harvey continued to pick up moisture from the Gulf dumping an initial 40” of rain at a rate of 5 to 7 inches per hour on the region. The storm moved off shore then returned vacillating between Hurricane and Tropical Storm status. Moving northeast at a sluggish rate of around 3 miles per hour, Harvey continues to dump massive amounts of rain between Texas and Louisiana. Levies are overflowing and much of Houston’s Transportation infrastructure is at this point inoperative.
Trucks are submerged under the deluge of water
Thousands of roads in the Houston area are closed as levies and rivers overflow their banks. Interstate 45 between Galveston and Houston and up through its northern suburbs has major closures. The same is true for I-10, I-69 and US 59 in the same area. Houston’s Transtar Traffic Map shows access to Barbours Cut Boulevard via SR-146 and 225 have sustained high water virtually sealing off the Morgan Point Ocean Terminal. Trucks remain stranded on highways flooded up to the roof of their cabs, and one regional forwarder indicated it could be 7 to 10 days before the water recedes. Thankfully major highways between Houston and San Antonio are open and Interstate 35 is clear all the way to Laredo.
Rail traffic halted
On the 24th the BNSF suspended service into and out of Galveston in anticipation of the storm. They were forced to shut down operations in Houston over the weekend. Likewise, the Union Pacific moved equipment out of the path of potential flooding and curtailed operations between Brownsville and Beaumont, Texas just prior to Harvey’s initial landfall. The KCS stopped operating between Laredo and Kendleton Texas last Friday estimating there will be a 48 to 72 hour delay in reopening once the storm had passed. This would give crews time to inspect their network and declare it safe for operation.
All Class 1 railroads remain closed as the storm slowly pulls northward through Louisiana today and tomorrow.
Air Cargo Grounded
George Bush International (IAH) received over 16 inches of rain on Sunday breaking a record set back in 1945. It will remain closed until at least Thursday officials said. William P. Hobby also remains closed with carriers advising not to attempt to reach the airport. Some traffic is landing at IAH bringing emergency supplies and retrieving stranded passengers but the airline industry estimates that by Thursday over 2,000 flights will have been canceled in and out of Houston.
Storm clouds on a new horizon
Centered just north of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Harvey made landfall again Tuesday night moving north-northeast at about 8 miles per hour. As Harvey moves inland, it will steadily weaken but not before dumping 6 to 10 inches or more of rain in the Memphis area. New Orleans seems to have dodged another blast from the storm but the National Weather Service indicates that Mobile could see an additional 4 to 6 inches of rain until Harvey moves northward.
As it moves beyond Houston, water will begin to recede and the massive cleanup can begin. It could be days or weeks however before Houston’s transportation infrastructure becomes fully operational. Very little will move by road until rivers, which in some cases crested 16 feet above flood stage, begin to recede. Both Bush International and William P Hobby Airport are scheduled to reopen on the 31st. That being said, delays might continue into the Labor Day weekend.
All Class 1 Railroads have begun their assessment of track and equipment but with the holiday weekend coming up, it is likely that things won’t get back to normal until next week.
Here comes the sun
Tropical storm Harvey may continue to plague Memphis, Louisville and the Ohio Valley as it moves northward. Will its “telltale” effects continue to hamper transportation infrastructure along its path? And what of the future? After all hurricane season is just beginning! Hopefully the Gulf will be spared another disaster of this magnitude and the sun will shine brightly over its shores.