For the bulk of the transportation industry, the rash of severe storms and deadly tornadoes that roared through the south this week will have little long-lasting impact. The storms, which killed nearly 300 people in several states, have left thousands without power and destroyed a Petro Truck Stop in Virginia.
But for one carrier, the damage was quite severe. Boyd Brothers Transportation, a flatbed carrier based in Clayton, AL, had the second-floor roof of its maintenance and dispatch center in Birmingham ripped off when a tornado touched down just 100 yards from the facility, David Baker, vice president of maintenance, told Fleet Owner.
“We were very fortunate we did not have anyone injured,” Baker said. There were 14 inside the facility, which includes a 40,000-sq.-ft maintenance shop and 20,000 sq. ft. of office space. It is one of four maintenance facilities for the company, which operates about 1,000 tractors and 1,800 trailers.
Baker said several area companies have stepped up to help with offers of maintenance services, office space, and yard space, including Kenworth of Birmingham, Southland International, and Utility Trailer.
“[CMC Steel] has donated office space,” Baker said. “They donated a training office building for us to set up, and now our dispatchers are back up and running.”
After the tornado hit, the company immediately moved its dispatchers to its Clayton headquarters to provide as seamless as possible operation for its drivers on the roads. Boyd’s maintenance personnel are still cleaning up the facility, which will be unusable for several months, Baker said. There still is no power.
Baker said the company was ultimately very lucky it did not suffer a direct hit. In all, he said about 50 trucks suffered minor damage such as cracked windshields, damaged hoods and mirrors. He also said a number of the curtain-side trailers were flipped.
“We’re still assessing how to do everything in Birmingham,” Baker said. “But outside of the storm-damaged areas, we’re functioning as normal.”
While Boyd suffered damage, the highways throughout the region were generally spared. With the exception of many downed trees which were quickly cleared, all the major interstates are open. According to an Alabama Dept. of Transportation spokesperson, as of Thursday afternoon travel was slow going on those roads and Mississippi and Tennessee have reported minor flooding issues on state highways this week.
Franklin and Tuscaloosa counties in Alabama are the hardest hit and several roads in those areas were closed or heavily congested. Roads in Birmingham are also in “rough shape,” the spokesman said.
Alabama lists all its road closures on its website at http://www.dot.state.al.us and then click on “emergency road closures.” The site also includes real-time traffic cameras.
The Petro location in Glade Springs, VA, received a direct hit from a tornado and is no longer operating, Petro said in a statement on its website.
“We are working to get this site back up as soon as possible. We will update as the site progresses to reopen. Again we are thankful no one was injured,” wrote Joan O’Clair on the site.
Petro also said that one of its stations in Alabama was without power, but the company was working quickly to bring in generators. The station was expected to be operational by this morning.
The Tennessee Trucking Association said it had heard of no reports of significant damage to any member companies, although there was some damage to individual driver’s property in some cases.
According to Alabama Power, as of early this morning, 250,745 were still without power in the state, although that is down from a high of 412,229 on Wednesday evening. The utility has mobilized 6,300 employees to restore power as quickly as it can, it said on its website.
Birmingham had just over 113,000 still without power and the Western portions of the state, which includes Tuscaloosa county, still had 111,000 people without power. Alabama Power gave no timetable for the repairs, but said some customers should expect “prolonged outages.”