Two storms back-to-back, one an early snowstorm and the second a warm and record-breaking rain, have caused flooding in several regions of Washington State this week. For trucking, the biggest problem is the closure of I-5 between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR, one of the busiest trucking lanes in the country.
The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates that about 11,000 trucks per day use the portion of I-5 that is currently under ten-plus feet of water. The detour is long, too, some 180 miles through the eastern half of the state and back again. It has forced many drivers to make a tough choice--- take the very long way around, park and wait for the waters to recede, or leave the freight on the ground.
According to local news reports, the state hopes to reopen I-5 early next week. Some portions of the roadway may have been destroyed by water flowing under the pavement, causing it to collapse and shift. Earlier in the week, State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond estimated the economic impact of the closure at about $4 million per day, but it could go much higher depending on the actual number of trucks (and trains) caught up in the mess.
For individual carriers dealing with the storm’s aftermath, red ink is flooding through this week’s profits due to driver downtime, extra fuel costs, penalties for delayed or damaged freight and the spreading effects of having to reallocate assets and rework routes.