Hurricane Florence dissipated on September 19 leaving behind approximately 38 billion dollars in damage. While the impact of Florence is still fresh, fleet managers should look ahead and prepare their fleets for next hurricane season.
Teach Drivers the Dangers of Floodwaters
Florence brought more rain than any other tropical cyclone on record, and flooding lingered a full two weeks after the storm made landfall. In Forbes, Meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd made the case for a transformation in the way society views the threat of hurricanes.
He wrote, “Clearly, one thing that needs to change is how people perceive floodwaters. […] As I monitored Florence, I saw video after video of trucks and cars plowing through flooded roads.”
The majority of deaths from Hurricane Florence were due to vehicles caught in floodwater. However, the dangers of floodwaters can be much more subtle than the risk of being swept away. There have been numerous documented cases of bacterial infections from cuts or scrapes exposed to floodwaters. At least one such infection was deadly.
Floodwaters can also be contaminated with spilled chemicals or sewage from overflowing wastewater. Murky waters can hide broken glass, nails, and other debris that can injure a person or damage a vehicle. Drivers should be educated about the dangers of floodwaters until they are persuaded to take those dangers very seriously.
Prepare for Worse Conditions Next Year
In May 2018, researchers published new findings from a massive study of data collected during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. One of the researchers, Kevin Trenberth, a senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, spoke about those findings in an interview with Scientific American. Trenberth predicted that, in the future, hurricanes will get bigger and last longer, but that there will be fewer overall storms.
While fleet managers can hope for fewer storms, they should also prepare for increasingly powerful storms with the potential to do lasting damage to both fleets and transportation infrastructure.
Plan Ahead for Next Hurricane Season
An article in Government Fleet Magazine outlines three stories of fleets that weathered 2009’s intense hurricane season with minimal damage and expense. For those fleets, planning ahead was the common thread that improved their situation. Fleet managers should consider borrowing one or more of their strategies for a formal hurricane plan:
- House vehicles on high land in areas that are not storm-prone. The fleet in League City, Texas stored their vehicles in an area at low risk for flooding to avoid costly vehicle losses.
- Partner with other fleets for mutual assistance. The League City fleet manager met quarterly with other fleet managers in the area to share information and coordinate mutual-assistance plans for emergencies.
- Secure an emergency fuel plan. During Hurricane Rita, the fleet in Harris County, Texas learned what it was like to go without fuel when the gas stations had no power to run their pumps. By the time the next hurricane season rolled around, they had an emergency fuel plan in place, so their fuel supply was never depleted.
Prepare to Prosper
Hurricanes are natural disasters that do not have to become tragedies for fleet managers and owner/operators. With common-sense precautions and thorough preparation, small fleets can weather next hurricane season and get back on the road.
Get tips on how to adapt to fluctuating fuel prices here.