Tropical Storm Barry may impact major US ecommerce shipping corridor

NASA Tropical Storm Barry Gulf of Mexico
Source: NASA

Tropical Storm Barry formed early Thursday morning in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts the storm could turn into a Category 1 hurricane just before landfall around central Louisiana.

Storm surge warnings, tropical storm warnings, and hurricane watches have been issued for parts or the northern Gulf of Mexico region.

Tropical Storm Barry
Source: NHC / NOAA

Because of the rapid rise of this storm, there has already has been a lot of rainfall in the area causing flash floods in coastal areas.

The NHC suggests 10 to 15 inches of additional rain could fall through early next week with some areas even receiving up to 20 inches of rain.

The storm’s path will take it through the busy southern transportation corridor which includes the I-10 and I-20 highways and the lower Mississippi River valley, bringing more heavy rain to an already soaked area.

To make matters worse, the Mississippi River is currently around 16 feet, which normally is at 6 to 8 feet this time of the year. The additional rain from Tropical Storm Barry could crest the river at 19 feet on Friday, a level not seen in nearly 70 years.

Heavy flooding of roads, railways, and waterways in the lower Mississippi River valley could disrupt logistics operations for carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and USPS and many trucking companies.

While this storm is much weaker than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it will affect similar lower-lying areas that saw so much destruction from Katrina.

If you are in the path of Tropical Storm Barry

Since this storm formed so quickly, there has been little warning of its impending landfall causing people and businesses to scramble to prepare for the storm.

Your personal safety is most important, but if you have time to safeguard your business, here are some tips to help you deal with this storm and handle your operations.

  • Make a video of all your inventory upload it to the cloud. This can help tremendously when making an insurance claim on lost inventory.
  • Safeguard your accounting and business records.
  • If you are running an eBay, Etsy or other marketplace store, place your store in vacation mode for a few days until the storm passes.
  • If you have a website, use a pop-up or place a message on the site communicating you are located in a potential disaster area and some shipments may be delayed.
  • Remember to forward your business line to a mobile phone as most mobile operators will be up and running before any landlines are back. This is very difficult to do once the landlines go down.
  • Record a voice mail message with information about your current business situation. You can also update this message as conditions warrant.
  • If you have incoming freight shipments, contact the carrier(s) and arrange for delayed delivery. Keep in mind this may impact your inventory levels and if you planned a sale (especially coinciding with Prime Day next week), this could be problematic.
  • Cancel promotions you planned to run (Google keywords, ad buys, etc.) if you cannot fulfill sales quickly.
  • Allow a trusted friend, remote worker, or family member outside the impacted area with access to your emails and phone. This way they can communicate with customers if necessary.
  • And finally, secure the building you are storing inventory and business operations as best as possible with the little time you have.

For sellers not in the storm’s path

  • If you are located in the southern US, your packages may typically travel through this busy transportation corridor and you may want to keep an eye on shipments for delays.
  • When processing shipments over the next few business days, you may wish to include a message in your emails explaining buyers that this storm may interrupt shipping lanes and delivery times could be longer than anticipated.
  • Especially when sending parcels via USPS, they often will hold packages at origin points if there is a good chance of disruption in their logistics operations. Don’t be alarmed if packages have not left your area for days. But keep track of these shipments daily and keep your customers informed.

Orders from marketplaces

With eBay, Etsy, and other marketplaces placing a huge premium on fast shipment, it is important to keep an eye on shipments from marketplaces.

In most cases, marketplaces will designate impacted zip codes and automatically remove strikes or other negative metrics on a seller’s rating when a shipment was going to or from an impacted zip code.

However, because this storm passes through a major logistics corridor, shipments from unaffected zip codes can easily be delayed.

For the next week or two, it is vital to track all your shipments and if you suspect the storm delayed a shipment, contact the marketplace and ask them to remove the negative feedback or seller metric.

This may require some explaining to the customer service representative, but with patience it is usually successful. But if you are having trouble and you are not speaking with someone in the US, ask to be transferred to a US based representative.

Personal safety first

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your business operating after the storm passes and for those not in the impacted area, it will explain some anomalies in shipping times as they are almost guaranteed to occur.

Most important for those who will face the storm head one, stay safe and while your business is important, it is not as important as your personal and family’s safety and health.

If you have any additional suggestions how to protect your business during this storm, please share them below or head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.
And don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to stay up to date with important news and business insights for your online retail business.

Richard has 17 plus years of eBay experience which includes tens-of-thousands of sales to buyers in over 100 countries. He even has experience with eBay's VeRO program enforcing intellectual property rights. And for about two years he sold products on Amazon using Amazon FBA. To "relax" from the business grind, on a few weekends he works for IMSA as a professional sports car race official.


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