Hurricanes and tropical storms regularly threaten business operations and employee safety at International Paper’s facility in Wilmington, North Carolina. However, with 24/7 access to meteorologists and site-specific forecasts from StormGeo, International Paper can reduce downtime, prevent damage, and protect lives.
Located right on the south-eastern coast of North Carolina, the International Paper facility in Wilmington has experienced its share of severe weather events. From Hurricane Michael to Hurricane Florence, tropical storms continue to disrupt businesses and impact communities in the area, making accurate and timely weather forecasting critical. In these conditions, International Paper relies on StormGeo weather insights for logistics planning and personnel safety.
“Safety is our ultimate core value,” says Tim Gill, Environmental Health, Safety, and Sustainability Manager at International Paper. “We have relied on StormGeo for many years to monitor the location forecast for tropical storms and severe weather events that may impact our facility. With StormGeo’s forecasts, we can ensure that our employees are working in a safe environment.”
International Paper is one of the world’s leading producers of fiber-based packaging and pulp. With 28 pulp, paper, and packaging mills, 200 converting and packaging plants, and 18 recycling plants, the company serves more than 25,000 customers across 150 countries.
At the Wilmington plant, close to 600 employees produce 2,200 tons of fluff pulp a day, a fiber that is used in various essential products, such as baby diapers, feminine care products, and medical devices. To avoid lost production, protect assets, and keep their employees safe, International Paper is dependent on accurate weather insight data.
“Whenever a major storm approaches, we need reliable data and information to decide whether to shut down our facility, as it can take up to 72 hours to start it back up. Previously, we would get reports from power companies and rely on information from the general media, but these did not give us the necessary details. With storm impact data and site-specific forecasts from StormGeo, we are much better equipped to make the proper operational decisions,” he says.
To stay prepared, StormGeo provides International Paper with 24/7 weather services covering all types of weather parameters, including tropical storms and hurricane monitoring, tracking, and impact analysis. With comprehensive and site-specific forecasts and continuous support, StormGeo experts guide International Paper through the intricacies of preparing for severe weather events.
StormGeo’s weather guidance was put to the test when the powerful and long-lived Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas in September 2018, causing catastrophic damage to both communities and businesses. To protect their people and assets, International Paper reached out to StormGeo’s meteorologists for help.
“For Hurricane Florence, we relied heavily on forecast, decision guidance and impact data, frequent updates from StormGeo to make safe and informed operational decisions. StormGeo provided us with site-specific forecasts that helped us decide whether to shut down our facility,” Gill says.
Looking at the data StormGeo presented, International Paper decided to shut down the plant. Within a few days, the facility went completely dark. Internal and external power supplies were turned off, water systems were shut down, and employees were evacuated, except for a small group of operations and maintenance support staff.
“Safety always comes first, so we used StormGeo’s wind profiles to determine the exact times when it was most dangerous to be inside the plant for our onsite crew. At the same time, StormGeo’s rainfall projections allowed us to retain resources for transportation and food prior to the hurricane impact,” he says.
After the storm had passed, the facility began assessing the damage. Humidity and water infiltration significantly impacted the motor control centers, and the facility was completely isolated for several days due to floodwaters. However, with accurate forecasts, the Wilmington facility had taken the necessary measures to ensure good and safe working conditions for all employees in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
“The facility became home to many of our employees during the operational recovery, and we were able to provide beds, food, clothing, and showers to all onsite workers. Knowing the weather forecast, we had already procured a helicopter to bring in key personnel to help us start with our electrical system recovery and bring in critical supplies. This helped us ensure our facility was up and running within a few days.”
Maintaining business operations and ensuring the well-being of all employees in situations of severe weather events is no easy task. With the help of StormGeo, International Paper was able to evacuate their employees in time and get the facility up and running as soon as the weather permitted after Hurricane Florence. Gill says StormGeo weather forecasts will continue to support International Paper in keeping their employees safe during severe weather events in the future.
“When we need immediate confidence that we are making the right operational decisions, StormGeo is there to help. They are always accessible and available for discussions, and we can easily reach StormGeo’s meteorologists by phone 24/7. If you are looking for a company that can provide you with accurate, site-specific, and timely information, then StormGeo is the one to go with.”