Cross-country drought impacts logisticsThe extremely dry summer weather recently experienced by much of the country hurt many industries. From agriculture to meat production, the drought had a detrimental effect on corporations nationwide. Because of recent weather patterns, it's not just the products themselves that have suffered, but also the transportation routes used to move goods from one place to another.

Problems stemming from summer
Companies that use boats to ship their products have struggled to get their goods to market. Logistics systems that involve smaller waterways have been especially tricky, as shallow bodies of water dried up quickly with negligible rain and extreme heat.

During August, a section of the Mississippi River was temporarily shut down and inaccessible to ships transporting goods. The New York Times reported that Mississippi River Commission spokesman Bob Anderson said the delay was due to multiple groundings that halted ship traffic at "a very tricky portion of the river."

The Mississippi was reopened shortly after, but not soon enough to prevent a group of ships from coming to a halt, which delayed shipping times. Reuters reported that 97 ships were stranded as a result of the closing of the stretch of the waterway. The lines were eventually cleared up, but companies may have suffered losses from the time their ships spent stalled in the river.

Whether this will happen again remains to be seen. Reuters reported that the drought has resulted in the Mississippi falling to its lowest water level since 1988.

Problems continuing
Some corporations that rely primarily on waterways may need to decide if a shipping alternative would better serve their logistical operations as the low water levels continue. Time magazine reported that the Great Lakes are also approaching record low levels, and may actually fall below those minimums, which were last seen in the 1960s.

Time reported that while all the Great Lakes are at lower-than-average levels, Lakes Michigan and Huron are roughly two feet below normal, which is causing a serious shipping disruption. Low water levels make it impossible to ship larger amounts of cargo, which has the potential to raise prices, disrupting even more industries.

Water levels may not be rising, but shipping rates seem to be. Bloomberg reported that the drought has hit companies with more than just one problem - while shipping times have increased due to low water levels, prices to send goods along the waterways have also gone up. This is hampering businesses' efforts to optimize the logistical end of their supply chains, and companies that receive goods shipped along drought-stricken routes may determine a need for new procurement strategies if the situation does not improve. Both suppliers and purchasers are hoping the situation doesn't worsen, and preparing for serious consequences if it does.
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