Hurricane Prep Challenges Transportation Networks
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Many sea ports and airports along the southeastern United States coastline are closed today as Hurricane Florence nears. Authorities in coastal areas are urging residents one last time to get out. Airlines have canceled close to 1,000 flights. NPR's David Schaper has been watching.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster's message is pretty blunt. If you live in an evacuation zone, you better hit the road soon.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HENRY MCMASTER: Once those high winds get here, it will be very difficult - if not impossible - for anybody to come rescue you if you are in harm's way in one of those zones.
SCHAPER: Authorities reversed the flow of traffic on many highways to help residents evacuate more quickly. But some of those coastal highways will be closing today. And for some evacuees, filling the tank is a problem. Rebecca Segool (ph) is in Wilmington, N.C.
REBECCA SEGOOL: There was no gas yesterday. We sat in line for like a half hour at like five gas stations to get gas.
SCHAPER: Patrick DeHaan of gasbuddy.com says a significant number of gas stations, especially around Wilmington and the Raleigh-Durham area, are running out of fuel because of the huge demand.
PATRICK DEHAAN: Simply put, when you have tens of thousands of people that are trying to get out of harm's way and they're all filling up at the same time, certainly it overwhelms how much gasoline can be stored under these tanks at gas stations.
SCHAPER: Many retailers are running low on storm prep essentials from batteries, generators and plywood to bread and bottled water. Trucks are rushing into the region to restock store shelves. But Peggy Dorf, a freight and logistics market analyst for DAT Solutions, says they won't be for much longer.
PEGGY DORF: As soon as a storm is about to hit, all traffic stops in and out of the area until the storm calms down and the roads are clear.
SCHAPER: That could take a couple of days or even weeks, says Dorf, depending on the severity of the storm.
DORF: You could have a delay when power is out. Bridges could be out. Roads could be flooded. And you won't be able to deliver goods and materials.
SCHAPER: Air travel could be all but stopped for several days, too.
ROSS FEINSTEIN: We currently have a travel alert, which is posted for 23 airports from Virginia all the way through Georgia on the East Coast.
SCHAPER: American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein says some airports are already closed, and planes are being moved to higher and drier ground. He says when flights will resume again depends on how long Florence sticks around.
FEINSTEIN: That is a concern our team of meteorologists have is ultimately if it stalls and how much rain could it possibly fall within a certain period of time and massive flooding of runways and other infrastructure.
SCHAPER: If the rain forecasts hold true, it could take some time for not just planes but cars, trucks, trains and even some emergency vehicles to return to the hardest-hit areas. David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.