As of this morning, the impact of Frankenstorm Sandy still has a huge swath of the coastal Northeast staggering under the combined blows of the high winds and huge storm surges over ocean beaches and riverbanks it packed.

Some six million people remain without power throughout the region, including along the incredibly devastated New Jersey shore and in much of New York City as well as its surrounding tri-state region, which is comprised of counties in northern New Jersey, suburban New York State, and southwestern Connecticut. The storm’s death toll now stands at 72. President Obama has declared both New Jersey and New York state “major disaster” areas.

Countless local roads in the region are blocked by fallen trees or other debris as well as live wires. But by most accounts, major roads and Interstate highways are open. On Tuesday, Connecticut lifted restrictions on use of limited-access highways while New York State reopened the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson—north of New York City—helping to re-link New England, including Connecticut, with western routes.

However, access to New York City remains limited by tunnel closings while flooded roadways and non-functioning traffic signals in the city have been causing major intersection-gridlock problems.

Just this morning, The New York Times reported that vehicle traffic on city streets was “exceptionally heavy as drivers tried to make it into Manhattan before 6 a.m., when the city has required at least three people in cars entering Manhattan over the Robert F. Kennedy, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, but not the George Washington Bridge. “

The newspaper pointed out that even though traffic had cleared in some areas, “much of the region’s arterial system remained a parking lot well past the typical morning commute, with some drivers in passenger cars saying their trips took several hours longer than usual.” What’s more, the report said that “Police checkpoints set up in many places to enforce the high-occupancy vehicle rule were so rigorous that they seemed to have the unintended effect of clogging up traffic flow even more, with lines of cars stretching from the Brooklyn Bridge to Staten Island.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s website lists road closures state-by-state.

Listed below by state are the latest road-closing notifications provided by navigation-solution provider Telogis to its customers:

Telogis-reported road closures ( | Denotes New Entries):
 

North Carolina
Sandy, NC, NC-12 : Due to flooding and over wash, N.C. 12 is closed from Rodanthe to the Oregon Inlet bridge
 

West Virginia:
Sandy, WV,US-250 Parsons: TUCKER CO:US-219 is closed South of Parsons to the Randolph Co. line due to down trees

| REMOVED Sandy, WV, US-119: TAYLOR CO: US-119 towards Morgantown is closed due to multiple down trees

| REMOVED Sandy, WV, US-50: IN PRESTON COUNTY US 50 is closed in the area of Cheat Mountain due to several trees in the road

The company also told FleetOwner that its Telogis Navigation solution (Navigo) “ensures that drivers have real-time road information as well as almost hourly communications to customers on new road closures and updates.”

Moving emergency supplies into much of the affected region —- especially the hardest-hit area, the smashed Jersey Shore— remains a continuing concern. However, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FEMA) has so far been cited for its responsiveness to this crisis and National Guard units have been called in where needed by Governors to help with rescue and relief efforts in the region.

To help speed the flow of disaster-relief materiel to stricken areas— and perhaps also to encourage trucking fleets to provide voluntary transport assistance as so many have in past natural disasters-- the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared a regional emergency over many Eastern states that suspends  driver hours-of-service (HOS) rules for those truckers engaged in storm-relief efforts.

FMCSA said the emergency order “applies only to those operations providing direct assistance to the emergency relief effort” The agency said the measure is meant “to help interstate truck drivers providing direct emergency relief from the storm.”  The order also exempts utility vehicles from HOS requirements, as many utilities are bringing in line crews from outside the afflicted area to help restore power.

Providing a look inside the challenges facing trucking operation in the storm=-struck region was Mark Cicchini, vice President of operations for the Northeast Region, Fleet Management Solutions, Ryder System, Inc.

“We are fortunate that we did not suffer any major infrastructure damage throughout our service network,” Cicchini told FleetOwner. “Our biggest challenge is the loss of power to our facilities concentrated in the New Jersey and New York City / Long Island markets. Our main focus right now is to restore power as quickly as possible, so we can continue offering service to our customers.  

“We will have generator power in place at the majority of our facilities within the next 24 to 48 hours,” he stated. “In the meantime, we have communicated with our customers to let them know of nearby facilities that are functional and will continue to keep them updated as power is restored.”

Cicchini pointed out also that “due to our experience supporting storm impacted areas, we have begun to move in additional vehicles to support the anticipated rental demand of our customers due to damage to their own fleets, as well as aiding in the recovery efforts.

“Another key area that we leverage during these storms is our extensive fuel network,” he added. “This allows us to ensure fuel supply remains available for our customers during localized high demand.”

In the vanguard of trucking-related firms engaged in aiding Sandy relief efforts is Taylor, MI-based Atlas Oil, a national fuel supply and distribution firm. The company has announced it will be sending trucks and fuel to assist with the crisis.

“Atlas is partnering with one of FEMA’s primary emergency fuel contractors to provide needed fuel trucks to assist with relief efforts in the New Jersey area,” the company said. “Atlas Oil’s Emergency Services division has built a reputation of responding to emergencies such as power outages caused by storms.”  The company noted that it frequently fills generators for hospitals, data centers and other mission-critical operations. 

“We are pleased that we are able to help in this relief effort,” said Sam Simon, CEO and owner of Atlas. “We have the equipment and the fuel expertise to assist in this massive restoration effort and our team members are rallying behind this.”

ARI, a fleet-services provider, has advised that it activated its emergency hotline (1-866-FLEET59) in advance of Hurricane Sandy. The company said its representatives “will be available 24/7 to respond to any urgent vehicle inquiry and answer questions that may develop as a result of the storm.”

The Dept. of Transportation yesterday announced it was releasing $10 million in emergency funds to New York State and $3 million to Rhode Island to help pay for restoring storm-damaged roads and no doubt other states will apply for such relief funds.

It is estimated that Sandy could ultimately cost up to $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business. Such totals would make it one of the costliest natural disasters to ever hit the United States, according to an AP news report that cited forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.

However, according to research firm FTR Associates, looking at Sandy’s micro-impact on trucking overall tells another tale. FTR senior consultant Noël Perry said today that his “initial estimated loss of $140 million per day the trucking industry will suffer from downtime associated with Super Storm Sandy will ultimately be recouped because of associated resupply and rebuilding truck freight demands.”

Perry said his per-day estimate of loss revenue is based on 20% of the industry not moving freight because of the storm and its aftermath.  

“While some fleets will surely lose revenue during the initial phases of the latest disaster, storms like Sandy create new demand later,” pointed out Perry.  “Retail outlets need immediate resupply that only trucking’s time-sensitive character can accommodate.  Plus storm damage needs to be fixed.  That creates longer-term additional freight tonnage.  While the storm is devastating to many, the trucking industry will see mostly positive effects.”