Hurricane Florence will very likely make landfall in North Carolina by Friday morning as a large and very strong category 4 storm.
Obviously, most important for folks in that area is to be prepared and evacuate if asked by officials to do so.
This storm is a rare direct hit at the mid-section of the U.S.
The last time a storm took a direct path like this was in 1989 by hurricane Hugo, which then ranked as the most costly storm in the U.S. history. But even today, Hugo is still the seventh costliest hurricane to hit the U.S.
While personal safety is most important, many small businesses in the area will be impacted, including many online sellers.
As much as preparing for the storm is important to best survive the hurricane, it is also important to be able to get your livelihood (business) up and running after a storm.
Almost to the day last year, I published an article on storm preparedness for eCommerce merchants when hurricane Irma was days away from making landfall.
All of the suggestion are still valid and if you are located in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, you should read the article (see READ MORE link) to help you keep your business prepared and ready to open after the storm passes.
Large East Coast Impact
Hurricane Florence will impact the mid-Atlantic section of the U.S., but its impact will be felt all along the East Coast.
The size of the storm and the forecasts for extraordinary large rainfall this specific storm is bringing with it will likely result in large-scale flooding, even in inland areas.
This will impact major trucking and logistics routes of I-95 (Jacksonville to Richmond) and probably even I-85 (Atlanta to Richmond).
Weather forecasters predict that even as far inland as Raleigh, NC will see significant rainfall and winds and may experience flash-floods from the storm.
The wide impact hurricane Florence will have on East Coast logistics will be felt throughout the nation, but more importantly, it will impact goods that travel north-sound along the busy East Coast corridor of the U.S.
UPS, FedEx, UPS, and other logistics carriers will have to hold or reroute ground shipments, which historically means delays of many days between shipper and recipient, even if both are nowhere near the affected area.
Of course, shipment to the Carolinas, and probably Virginia may suffer more delays as carriers may not be able to deliver packages in disaster areas.
Mandatory evacuations in North Carolina may already start to impact the ability for trucks to travel along the I-95 and I-85 corridors by Wednesday.
Online merchants should start notifying potentially affected recipients by Wednesday that shipments may be delayed by days due preparations and eventual impact of hurricane Florence.
eBay and Other Marketplace Sellers
Sellers that are in the impacted areas should start to think about placing their listings on “vacation hold” by Wednesday. It is unlikely that orders shipped past Wednesday will leave the project impact area.
Because seller reputation and feedback are so important on marketplaces, sellers should monitor any shipments that are going into or through the impacted areas for delays.
eBay already announced they will offer seller protection to sellers impacted by hurricane Florence and Etsy, Amazon, and others will likely follow.
However, these seller protections are usually based on a zip-code database obtained from the Federal Government of impacted areas and may not be 100 percent accurate.
Also, seller protections for shipments that typically travel through the disaster area may not automatically apply as marketplaces only look at the origin and destination zip codes.
Therefore, for shipments that may get delayed due to disruptions in the logistics network, sellers may have to call the marketplace customer service department to receive relief from unfavorable buyer feedback due to shipment delays.
Unfortunately, there will be destruction from this storm. There will be logistics delays, and business operations will be impacted.
Personal safety for folks living in the area is most important. We hope that if you can find a few minutes to also prepare your business, you’ll be able to pick up the pieces quicker and reduce the long-term impact on you and your family.
If you have been through a disaster and have some tips for sellers, we love to hear them. Please use the comments section below or head over to our Facebook Group.