Several Days prior to Hurricane Ike striking the Gulf Coast in mid-September, Sun Coast Resources Inc, a Houston, Texas, petroleum marketer, got a call from the governor's office to help in emergency response efforts.
Already part of the Texas governor's response program, the carrier was prepared to answer the call and began by supplying first responder vehicles in anticipation of the hurricane's fury, said Steven Boyd of Sun Coast. He discussed the company's actions at the Platts Refined Products Storage and Transportation Conference October 16-17 in Houston, Texas.
The preparation couldn't have come a minute too soon because Hurricane Ike struck the Galveston/Houston area with winds of 145 miles per hour and a storm surge that overtopped Galveston's 17-foot seawall.
After the storm subsided, Sun Coast began working around the clock to deliver fuel to emergency responders, hospitals, and others involved in rescue efforts. The carrier had to deal with refinery and terminal shutdowns, and roads and streets filled with debris. Some areas were inaccessible. Traffic jams were everywhere. About 2.2 million people were without power in the Galveston/Houston area. Property damage was reported at $35 billion.
Meanwhile, demand for fuel skyrocketed as panicked consumers lined up at gas pumps at retail outlets. Surprisingly, after an initial bounce, prices began to fall, Boyd noted.
Sun Coast drivers answered the call and were able to load at re-opened terminals, but waiting times were long. Hours-of-service regulations were suspended in order to expedite deliveries. Boyd said that public and private entities worked well together throughout the ordeal.
Meanwhile, the carrier also began filling drums, totes, and other containers that were specified for petroleum products. At one point, the carrier had filled hundreds of 270-gallon totes for use by emergency responders. As fuel shortage sparked some instances of theft, the company hired off-duty police officers to guard its bulk plants.
In the midst of the fuel distribution, Sun Coast employees were well aware of the human equation. “Some people lost it all,” Boyd said. “Galveston Island was devastated — and it was only a Cat 2 hurricane.” One-hundred thirty people were confirmed dead as a result of the storm and 400 were reported mising.
About 90% of Gulf Coast crude oil output was shut-in, 13 refineries were shut-down (representing 22% of US capacity), and 49 offshore production platforms were destroyed.
Hurricane Ike didn't just strike Texas. It brought flooding and high winds to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Florida Keys, Mississippi, Louisiana, the Midwest, and as far north as Chicago, Illinois.
What were some of the things Sun Coast learned about responding successfully to such emergencies? Boyd emphasized the importance for contingency planning, organization of alternative supply points, precise logistics planning, adequate insurance coverage, and preparation for the loss of electricity.