All Port Houston facilities remained closed on August 30, due to record flooding and other to weather-related havoc across southeast Texas and beyond spawned by Hurricane Harvey and the lingering tropical storm that followed. At this point, there is no word from the US Coast Guard as to when the Houston Ship Channel will reopen for vessel transits.
Houston is the biggest container port on the United States Gulf Coast, handling almost 70% of throughout. The nation’s largest marshalling point for export seaborne tonnage includes a number of cold storage warehouse companies that handle frozen products ranging from red meat, poultry and seafood to vegetables, fruits, ice cream and ready meals. Among the major operators are Americold Logistics and Preferred Freezer Services.
A bulletin posted at the Port Houston website advised: “We will continue to monitor weather conditions to determine when operations can safely resume.”
Meanwhile, people living in the Houston area are coping with the situation as relief teams arrive to help and emergency supplies pour in from near and far. As many supermarkets and restaurants are closed, residents not subject to mandatory evacuation orders are making the most of what’s on hand in refrigerators and cupboards at home.
“We are living off frozen pizza. We don’t know when we will get to leave as the rain has not stopped since Saturday,” said Jane Braid, an oil company attorney from Scotland living in a 17th floor apartment in H-Town. “The last few days have been pretty horrific for us, but I feel for the people who have been evacuated in lower lying areas. We haven’t been hit by the water, as we are high up. A lot of people have been put up in temporary shelters across the city, and we have friends who have gone to help them.”
H-E-B Rides to the Rescue
San Antonio-headquartered H-E-B Grocery Stores, which operates more than 300 outlets in over 150 communities across Texas, was quick to organize relief efforts even as many of its stores in the Greater Houston and Beaumont areas were shut down in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The company mobilized an emergency response team and dispatched disaster response units (DRUs) and mobile kitchens equipped to serve up to 2,500 meals per hour.
The convoy of more than 15 vehicles, which included the DRUs, two mobile kitchens, water and fuel tankers and trailers delivered much‑needed food, water, ice, dry goods, medicine and other relief supplies and services to communities in the affected hurricane and tropical storm areas. More than 100 H‑E‑B employees volunteered to accompany the convoy and assist affected residents.
In addition, H-E-B is donating $100,000 toward relief efforts and is accepting customer donations for the families and communities devastated by the storm. All monies benefit the American Red Cross for Texas Flood and Hurricane Relief, The Salvation Army and Feeding Texas.
“We have received numerous requests from customers about how they can help support victims and communities affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Winell Herron, H‑E‑B group vice president of public affairs and diversity. “Our tear pad campaign gives customers an opportunity to support victims through donations of $1, $3 or $5, which can be added to their total grocery bill. It offers a convenient and efficient way to make a difference in the lives of thousands of families in need.”
Maersk Updates Shippers
Maersk Line, the global container division and largest operating unit of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, has activated its Incident Management Center to review information around the clock from terminal partners in the region as well as government agencies and the National Hurricane Center.
On Wednesday it reported that Harvey is expected to move inland over the northwestern US Gulf Coast within the tropical storm warning area, and is likely to produce additional rainfall accumulations of six to twelve inches to the north and east of Houston from far east Texas into southwestern Louisiana. Isolated storm totals will reach 50 inches over the upper Texas coast, including the Houston/Galveston metropolitan area. These rains continue to wreak havoc with catastrophic and life-threatening flooding affecting large portions of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.
“Elsewhere,” continued the Maersk advisory, “Harvey is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of five to ten inches across portions of southern Louisiana into coastal Mississippi and Alabama. Rainfall associated with Harvey will spread north by mid to late week, with rainfall amounts of four to eight inches spreading into portions of Arkansas and the Tennessee Valley.”
The Texas tropical cyclone rainfall record has been broken, as the Cedar Bayou rain gauge, east of Highlands, Texas, logged 51.88 inches of rain already on Tuesday. This total is higher than the previous record of 48 inches set during Tropical Cyclone Amelia of 1978 at Medina, Texas.
Rail Service Disruption
Widespread flooding in the Houston area and other parts of southeastern Texas continue to cause major disruptions to rail service and BNSF operations in the region. Several subdivisions remain out of service due to multiple washouts and high water hazards. Traffic destined to or originating from Houston, as well as traffic scheduled to route through the city, remains suspended. Other area rail lines, including those with BNSF trackage rights, have also been forced out of service.
All operations at BNSF Houston-area rail yards and facilities are also suspended as road closures continue to limit access to these locations. There is currently no estimate on when these facilities will reopen.