Trucking in the Southeastern U.S. dealing with Irma's fallout

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Monday, September 11, 2017

The trucking industry in Florida is still assessing the disruption and damage caused by Tropical Storm Irma, which made landfall on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane along the Florida Gulf Coast.

Reports are that as many as 6.5 million residents and businesses are without power. At least six people in Florida have died as a result of the storm by Monday afternoon, and at least one death in Georgia is also attributed to the storm, which continued to make its way inland on Monday.

The Florida Department of Transportation is working on clearing U.S. 1, Interstate 75, Interstate 95, Interstate 4, Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 10. The state’s emergency response teams will prioritize clearing major roadways, according to a bulletin issued by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

All of Florida’s airports and ports remain closed or operating under emergency services only, except for the Port of Pensacola, which is open with restrictions. The Port of Tampa is expected to reopen at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to receive three fuel vessels, according to the Port of Tampa Bay’s official Twitter account.

The National Hurricane Center issued a public advisory Monday afternoon, which included a tropical storm warning in effect for north of the Suwannee River to the Okaloosa/Walton county
line in the Florida Panhandle, and north of the Flagler/Volusia county line to the South Santee River on the Atlantic Coast.

A storm surge warning is in effect for South Santee River southward to the Flagler/Volusia county line; north of Anna Maria Island to the Ochlockonee River on the Gulf Coast, and for Tampa Bay.

A storm surge warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations. Anticipated rainfall amounts in north Florida and south Georgia include 8-15 inches total from the storm and 3-10 inches in central Georgia, eastern Alabama, and southern South Carolina. The Atlanta metro area is expected to receive 3-5 inches of rain from the storm. The National Weather Service also cautions that isolated tornadoes may be possible through Monday night near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

As of Monday afternoon, Irma had crossed into southern Georgia, with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 415 miles from its center, and sustained winds of near 60 mph. The storm is expected to track north by northwest at about 17 mph, entering eastern Alabama on Tuesday morning.

An estimated 6.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate prior to Irma’s arrival. More than 200,000 remain in shelters throughout the state as of Monday, according to a release issued by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott signed an order on Friday waiving the state’s import fuel tax until Sept. 13.

Georgia

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Sunday that covers the entire state. State governments will be closed Monday and Tuesday. Reports estimate upwards of 1 million Peach State residents are without power Monday afternoon.

To accommodate evacuation traffic, the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes were changed over to northbound lanes. The lane orientation change as well as a waiver of tolls on the roadway will remain in effect until further notice. On I-75, this applies only to the South Metro Express Lanes in Henry and Clayton counties. Tractor-trailers are still not allowed to use these lanes.

Last week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regional emergency declaration for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Drivers providing direct assistance are exempt from regulations governed by 49 CFR Parts 390-399. FMCSA will not enforce the Temporary Operating Authority Registration fee provisions against carriers requesting Temporary Operating Authority Registration to provide direct assistance to emergency relief efforts.

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