SPECIAL REPORT: Katrina brings trucking to halt in much of Gulf region

| 8/29/2005

While torrential rains and gale-force winds bombarded the Gulf Coast on Monday, Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina brought trucking and transportation - in many parts of the region - to a halt as water and evacuating residents literally flooded area roadways.

Shortly after 6 a.m. CDT Monday, the center of the Category 4 hurricane moved ashore near the Louisiana/Mississippi border, where it continues to pound southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. The storm - which was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane around noon on Monday, is expected to continue moving northeast, blanketing much of Mississippi and its surrounding areas with dangerous weather conditions as it travels inland.

Katrina is having a nightmarish impact on the day-to-day operation of trucking companies in the region. Trucking in evacuation zones became an impossibility with terminals and truck stops closed, no power, no phone service and few certain routes.

Donna Echols, a spokesperson for one of the region's largest truckload carriers said KLLM Transportation Services's corporate headquarters and main terminal near Jackson, MI, had been totally evacuated.

According to KLLM's Web site, the company has 1,000 company-owned tractors, 400 owner-operator tractors and 2,400 company-owned reefer trailers. Echols, who was speaking from the company's Atlanta office, said she could not speculate on the number of trucks still on the road.

Truck stops in mandatory evacuation zones closed, including TA travel plazas in Slidell, LA, and Mobile, AL. The TA in Meridian, MS, was not evacuated but closed Monday due to loss of power. A spokesperson for TA said the truck stop could not pump fuel.

The Four-Mile Truck Stop, Lucidale, MS, told Land Line it was closing midday as the storm was approaching. Personnel at the Flying J in Jackson, MS, said they would stay as long as power was on. At the BP in Pelahatchie, MS, manager Robert Weaver was on the phone long enough to say "I'm outta here!"

The Louisiana State Police have ordered all roads leading to and from New Orleans closed, with traffic being diverted west on state Route 41 to U.S. 61. All roads in Jefferson Parish - the area in which New Orleans is located - are closed until further notice.

A checkpoint at the Leon Theriot Floodgates in Lafourche Parish west of New Orleans has also been set up to only allow emergency vehicles to travel farther south.

Large portions of Interstate 10 - including at U.S. 641 and at mile marker 254 - have also been closed. Interstate 12 between Louisiana Route 42 Albany and Louisiana Route 441 is also closed.

A number of smaller Louisiana roadways are also facing closures due to flooding or unspecified structural damage, including:

  • Crescent City Connection Bridge in New Orleans;
  • Belle Chasse Tunnel on Louisiana Route 23;
  • Louisiana Route 632;
  • U.S. 61 at Kenner;
  • Louisiana Route 1 near Golden Meadow;
  • Highway 11 at Little Irish Bayou;
  • Louisiana Route 3213 Veterans Memorial Bridge;
  • Louisiana Route 44 (River Road) at St. James/St. John Line;
  • Interstate 610 at Interstate 10;
  • U.S. 90 at Chief Menteur highway

As of noon Monday, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety was not advising any travel south of Interstate 20, except for emergency vehicles. The hurricane has rendered many roadways impassable, and conditions will continue to worsen as the storm moves across the state.

Storm-related road problems - including flooding and downed power lines - continued eastward through Alabama:

  • Interstate 10 is closed in Mobile County between Alabama Route 163 and U.S. 98 in Daphne, AL;
  • Interstate 10 closed at Exit 26b in Mobile County;
  • U.S. 98 closed at the D'Olive Creek Bridge in Baldwin County;
  • Alabama Route 188 closed at Padget Switch Road to Alabama Port in Mobile County;
  • Alabama Route 163 closed north of Dog River Bridge in Mobile County;
  • U.S. 90/98 Causeway closed in Baldwin County;
  • Alabama Routes 59, 180 and 182 closed in Baldwin County;
  • U.S. 98 closed at Bankhead Tunnel in Baldwin County;
  • Alabama Route 193 closed between Alabama Route 188 and Dauphin Island in Mobile County;
  • Alabama Route 180 advisory in place between MP3 and MP4 in Baldwin County.

President Bush declared the states of Louisiana and Mississippi disaster areas Monday, allowing federal disaster funds and support from Federal Emergency Management Agency to be used.

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- By Aaron Ladage, staff writer

Editor's note:  This information was gathered on Monday, Aug. 29, and updated at 4 p.m. CDT. Land Line was unable to contact Mississippi DPS's Web site for an afternoon advisory.