Plastics companies in North Carolina and the Southeastern U.S. are resuming production but now must deal with shipping problems in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
The Category 1 hurricane made landfall on Sept. 14, then dumped 36 inches of rain in some parts of North Carolina. At one point, more than 1 million people in the state were without power, 20,000 were in shelters, and 1,600 roads were closed because of flooding and debris.
The deaths of at least 42 people -- 31 in North Carolina, nine in South Carolina and two in Virginia -- have been attributed to Florence.
First responders rescued thousands of people from flooded neighborhoods and cars, including about 400 in the coastal town of New Bern, N.C., which endured 10 feet of storm surge and almost 9 inches of rain. President Donald Trump visited there Sept. 19.
PetroChem Wire reported that BP restarted its PTA chemical plant in Cooper River, S.C., by Sept. 19 following a shutdown prior to Florence making landfall.
The status of DAK Americas PET resin and staple fiber plant, also at Cooper River, was not immediately available, PetroChem Wire stated.
Jason Kinnear, general manager of Carolina Technical Plastics Corp., which is in New Bern, said the injection molding plant sustained no real damage but shipping issues persist and the company hasn't made contact with all 150 of its workers, many of whom heeded evacuation orders.
Kinnear said in Sept. 20 phone interview that he weathered the storm at his New Bern house and made it to the facility, which is on higher ground than much of the city, on Sept. 16.
“For New Bern, being one of the focuses of getting hammered pretty hard, we fared well,” Kinnear said.
He was relieved to find only one tree blocking a driveway and a very minor facility issue.
“We lost the blue ‘C' and ‘A' in our name on the building,” Kinnear said. “We found the ‘C' on the roof but the ‘A' is still MIA.”
The plant's power had also been restored by the time he arrived to assess the damage. CT Plastics was able to resume operations Sept. 17, Kinnear said. However, the business is having trouble getting some products to customers, especially those in the automotive industry that use their global chains to pick up orders from manufacturers.
“The problem is that the highways in and out flooded in sections and the [customers'] trucks can't get through,” Kinnear said. “We ended up going to the local truckers. They're at the coffee shop early in the morning talking to everyone about what's open and what isn't. They know back roads and back ways to get around things. As of last night, we got everything out. It's parts for BMW, Daimler and the like.”
CT Plastics also had moved some products from New Bern to its facility near Greenville, S.C., as part of its storm preparations. That eased some shipping woes.
“We freight forwarded from there,” Kinnear said. “They got a lot of rain but nothing that flooded the streets or had any real impact from a business standpoint.”
While many roads have been cleared of downed debris, travel remains treacherous in large areas of eastern and coastal North Carolina. Sections of Interstates 95 and I-40 remain closed due to flooding, and there were more than 740 road closures statewide at press time Sept. 21.
At CT Plastics, Kinnear said almost 95 percent of the employees have returned to work, although some that evacuated are still making their way back. The business, which also serves the home appliances and rail industries, now is making up for lost production time.
“We lost four days of production so we'll be tight for a while.,” Kinnear said. “There's no doubt about that, and in general, the customers have been very understanding. They're working with us on schedules.”