With the noted exception of Hurricane Sandy, logistics and natural disasters haven't been too much of a problem for supply chain managers. Not a single major hurricane struck the U.S. for over a decade, tracing back to the highly active season of 2005 when Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast.
That all changed last year, though, when several Category 4 storms struck various portions of the
U.S. including Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. The fallout was substantial, particularly in Puerto Rico, which just recently saw most of the island's power restored - a full year after Hurricane Maria made its appearance known.
With two months of the Atlantic hurricane season down and two more to go, tropical storm activity has been fairly muted, much to the delight of business owners and supply chain professionals. But September tends to be the peak month for the wind and rain that the five-month stretch is known for, and right on cue, the first major storm of 2018 has the East Coast in its crosshairs.
Florence season's sixth named storm thus far
Off the coast of Africa, the season's sixth named storm developed into a Category 4. Florence on Sept. 5 reached a sustained wind capacity of 130 miles per hour on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Energy Scale, which the National Hurricane Center uses to estimate what storms are capable of in terms of property damage. "Major" hurricanes are Categories 3 to 5, the effects of which can lead to catastrophic levels of damage for homeowners and business owners, portending carefully designed risk analysis in strategic sourcing to mitigate the effects.
"Florence is expected to regain its potency."
Hurricanes are highly volatile, capable of shifting directions, speed and intensity at any given moment. This makes Florence's ultimate destination unclear. Over a 24-hour period, for example, what was a Category 4 storm has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. In fact, the National Hurricane Center contends Florence will regain its potency in the coming days.
"There is still very large uncertainty in Florence's track beyond Day 5," the NHC stated, according to the paper. "Since we are near the peak of hurricane season, this is a good time for everyone who lives in a hurricane-prone area to ensure they have their hurricane plan in place."
Companies eager to avoid a repeat of 2017
Even when businesses are prepared for natural forces' effects on sourcing, the aftermath can be difficult to absorb. This was certainly the case in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey - which also made landfall in September - made a beeline for Houston and hovered over Texas' largest metropolitan area for more than two days. Powerful wind gusts and torrential rain led to over 5 feet of flooding that made traveling virtually impossible. Supply chains in numerous sectors were impacted, with the Port of Houston shut down for almost a week even after Harvey departed. Millions of customers lost power for several days.
Whether Florence flares up or fizzles remains uncertain, but in the meantime, supply chain managers on the East Coast are cautioned to check the latest weather updates as they happen and coordinate with emergency responders to ensure organizational adaptability.