Trucking fleets, railroads and shipping lines are rerouting cargo and setting up alternate supply lines as Tropical Storm Harvey promises to disrupt freight traffic across southeast Texas for days.
Seaports in Houston and Corpus Christi have been closed to most ships since before Harvey made landfall Friday, and rising waters from days of heavy rains and catastrophic flooding are threatening long stretches of highways and railroad tracks, bringing freight transportation in a major American hub to a virtual standstill.
The number of Houston-area trucking runs requested plunged 80% Sunday, according to the most recent data from DAT Solutions, an online load board. Union Pacific Corp. has halted all freight rail traffic bound for Houston and surrounding areas, while United Parcel Service Inc. has suspended freight service in Houston and Beaumont, Texas, and is offering limited service as far west as San Antonio. Two Maersk Line container ships remain anchored in the Gulf of Mexico, joining oil tankers and cruise ships waiting for Houston’s port to reopen.
The gridlock will likely reverberate beyond Texas, threatening to snarl international trade routes. Houston is a key consolidation point for imports of vehicles and appliances made in Mexico, and stores as far away as Denver bring in foreign-made goods via the city’s port.