Top 5 Worst Weather Incidents in Shipping & Logistics


Top 5 Worst Weather Incidents in Shipping & Logistics

In the world of transportation and logistics, sometimes all it takes is a minor curveball for something to go majorly wrong. One of the most common and devastating arenas where curveballs happen is the world of weather. From hurricanes to blizzards, and tornadoes to floods, extreme weather has had a negative impact on shipping ever since people began moving goods from place to place.

The good news: according to this study by the US Department of Transportation, weather incidents only account for about 15% of delays in trucking, ousted by other issues like traffic accidents (25%) and bottlenecks (40%). But when a severe weather incident strikes, it strikes hard. Let’s take a look at the top five worst weather incidents of all time.

Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Let’s start by going way back in time, to 101 years ago, to an incident you may not have heard of before – the Great Lakes Storm of 1913. A blizzard with hurricane-force winds up to 90mph, this was the most devastating storm the people of this generation had ever seen, and it would likely be just as devastating if it were to strike today. The blizzard impacted the entire Great Lakes region, which was filled with cargo ships at the time, carrying commodities like steel, iron, lumber, and coal.

When all was said and done, 12 cargo ships had sunk and countless others were stranded or damaged, equating to a current-day loss of equipment and cargo of roughly $119,310,000.

Hurricane Sandy

Whenever a hurricane hits, damage is inevitable, but Hurricane Sandy hit the US particularly hard in 2012. It was the second-costliest hurricane in United States history (after Hurricane Katrina), racking up damage over $68 billion. Much of this destruction had an impact on logistics and transportation. According to the New Jersey DOT, Sandy caused 80 road washouts and 581 accidents in New Jersey within the first three days; over 1,250 road signs had to be replaced, 4,400 truckloads of debris had to be removed, and sand and debris had to be cleared from over 12 miles of a major NJ state highway. Sandy caused damage to roadways and infastructure in surrounding states, as well, including New York and Pennsylvania. The hurricane had an extreme impact on transportation up and down the East Coast.

Hurricane Katrina

Predictably enough, Hurricane Katrina definitely makes the list. The most expensive hurricane in US history and the most deadly hurricane to strike since the 1920’s, this deadly storm hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 and is now a historically famous disaster. Although the hurricane is remembered mainly for the death and destruction it caused, it also had a huge impact on the transportation industry – not just truckload, but rail and sea as well. Important railroad bridges were destroyed, ports were inaccessible – Katrina essentially cut off the entire Gulf Coast and made it temporarily inaccessible to the rest of the nation and world.

2011 Missouri River Flood

In May of 2011, at the upper Missouri River basin, one entire year’s worth of rain fell. This, combined with record snowfall in the nearby Rocky Mountains, meant all six Missouri River dams were completely overloaded. This led to the longest flood event in US history – 82 days of flooding. Over 60 miles of highway in Iowa were closed for a whopping five months. This detour added 150 miles to the trip between Kansas City, MO and Sioux Falls, SD. Truckers traveling lanes in that area had to make major detours and add extra miles and time to their trips for an extended period of time.

Polar Vortex

No one has yet forgotten the Polar Vortex, the extreme winter weather that impacted a large portion of the US this past winter. This weather event was unique largely because of its widespread effects. Unlike a blizzard that only impacts a small portion of the country, this period of harsh cold and winter storms made lives miserable all up and down the East Coast, stretching out to the Midwest and Canada. Beyond the transportation delays caused by the snow and ice, produce season was seriously delayed this year due to the incredibly late winter, with cold temperatures reaching far into spring.

When an extreme weather disaster strikes, it’s important to know you have a reliable logistics provider on your side. Check out our case study from Hurricane Irene, detailing how we assisted our customer, Pizza Blends, in the face of a natural disaster. What would happen if a hurricane, blizzard, or flood were to strike your distribution area tomorrow? Do you feel confident that your transportation providers could go the extra mile to make sure your product reaches its destination with the fewest delays possible? If not, we’d love for you to get in touch with us and discuss your transportation needs.

Other Sources
Impacts of Extreme Weather on Transportation: National Symposium Summary
Gauging the Impact of Winter Storms on Trucking
Case Study of the Transportation Sector’s Response to and Recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita