Date: Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Here are Tuesday’s news and notes from FreightWaves reporters and market experts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. This file will be updated throughout the day, so please check back.
Georgia was not included in the broad multi-state waiver of Hours of Service rules handed down Sunday by FMCSA. But the state’s governor, Brian Kemp, has taken care of that with his own waiver.
Kemp has the ability to issue a state waiver for a federal Hours of Service Rule for 30 days. That 30-day duration is the same for the six states–Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas–that received the FMCSA waiver Sunday. However, given that the Georgia waiver was handed down two days after the six-state waiver, Georgia’s rule will not expire until September 30, unlike the September 28 expiration for the other states.
In both cases, the waiver would disappear if the emergency declaration from Hurricane Ida was lifted before the expiration dates on the waiver.
The Georgia waiver appears to be more sweeping than the six states. In that case, FMCSA said the waiver was just for “direct assistance” related to Hurricane Ida. But the proclamation signed by Kemp says the waiver is to “ensure the uninterrupted supply of health care supplies as well as all other supplies, goods and services throughout Georgia.”
Kemp’s action also lifted weight limits on trucks in the state. The limit normally is 80,000 pounds. It is being raised to 95,000 pounds during the emergency period.
Class I railroads are assessing track conditions following Hurricane Ida amid widespread power outages and flooding in some areas.
Interchange at New Orleans between the eastern and western railroads is still suspended and will be so until further notice, according to multiple Class I railroad service updates. An embargo essentially governing all traffic in and out of the city is still in place, according to BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.B) Monday service advisory.
In regards to BNSF’s main line between Lafayette, Louisiana, and New Orleans, there is no estimate yet on when the line will reopen. Crews are inspecting BNSF’s network infrastructure in southern Louisiana.
“BNSF pre-positioned track equipment and supplies, including fuel tanks and ballast, for service restoration. Our Engineering, Mechanical, Transportation and Signal teams are engaged in a coordinated effort to safely restore rail operations as expeditiously as possible,” BNSF said.
Union Pacific’s engineers have also started to assess track conditions, and much of its network reopened on Monday, said UP (NYSE: UNP) SVP of Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker.
“The area east of Livonia to New Orleans incurred the greatest storm impact, requiring additional clean-up time and closer inspection,” Rocker said in a Monday customer update. “In an effort to restore service as soon as possible, we have enlisted private contractors to assist with removing downed power lines and other debris from our tracks. We are also placing generators in areas that have lost commercial power.”
UP also said it is continuing to review rerouting options as interchanges in New Orleans are suspended.
Kansas City Southern’s mainline and interchange operations from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Gulfport/Hattiesburg, Mississippi, remain suspended, KCS (NYSE: KSU)said. KCS is waiting for the water to recede sufficiently so that it can conduct maintenance. — Joanna Marsh
The Port of New Orleans remains without power and there is no indication when terminals will reopen.
Ocean carrier Maersk reports that flyovers of the port shows no major damage to yard or cranes; however. further inspection is necessary. A survey of the Mississippi River’s Southwest Pass was scheduled Tuesday to confirm if, or when, one-way vessel traffic can resume.
At the Port of Mobile in Alabama, container yards are open, but the channel remains closed to vessels. Officials are conducting a survey of the channel, which Maersk said could reopen later Tuesday with some potential draft restrictions.
Maersk said it is experiencing delays with original bills of lading being delivered to ship agency Norton Lilly, which remains closed.
Deliveries by local couriers such as UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service are delayed. — Eric Kulisch
A sampling of the road closures in Louisiana:
I-10 between NOLA and Baton Rouge is reserved for emergency vehicles only (advisory only). In addition, th interstate exit ramps at Hwy. 51 in Laplace are flooded and closed.
NB I-55 is closed from Hammond to the Mississippi line due to trees in the roadway.
In addition, Mississippi Department of Transportation reports that U.S. Highway 90 closed from Pass Christian to Biloxi. — Nick Austin
Delta Air Lines is not accepting any cargo at its New Orleans airport station due to the after effects of Hurricane Ida. Cargo embargoes are also in effect in Baton Rouge and Lafeytte, Louisiana, through Sept. 3. – Eric Kulisch