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Cold, snow, ice cause disruptions, challenges for some

Keywords: Tags  Nucor Corp., John Ferriola, Steel Dynamics Inc., Klein Steel Service Inc., Todd Zyra, Universal Metals LLC, St. Mary’s River, AMM Staff

An unusually rough start to winter disrupted scrap flows, caused some headaches for metal plants and threatened the iron ore trade on Midwest waterways.

Record or near-record low temperatures in early January, which made work difficult if not impossible in some regions, came on the heels of winter storms that brought freezing rain, ice and lots of snow to the industrial Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard.

A severe winter storm that stretched from the Plains states to New England and the East Coast Jan. 2 and 3 affected some metal operations, although many companies escaped unscathed.

Scrap metal recyclers in the Northeast said deliveries had practically ground to a halt due to the inclement weather. “All of our operations are open, but no scrap is coming in the doors,” said a source at a northern Massachusetts recycler. A scrap company in southern Massachusetts kept its trucks off the road Jan. 3.

When roads are icy, “fewer people want to be out collecting scrap. And operating equipment safely is a challenge,” a source at a central Pennsylvania recycler told AMM. One recycler in the New York metropolitan area shut down its facility except for snow removal.

Severstal North America Inc., Dearborn, Mich., had “no issues with operations due to the snow and cold,” a company spokeswoman said.

“We have seen very little disruption,” said John Ferriola, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., but the steelmaker’s Vulcraft fabricating plant in Chemung, N.Y., shut down for a day. “In some of our Midwest scrap facilities--Kansas and Missouri--we’ll have some impact on inbound shipments. It’s only a couple of yards, nothing significant,” he said.

“We have had no delays, no interruptions whatsoever,” Craig Longardner, manager for materials and transportation at Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Steel Dynamics Inc., said.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Klein Steel Service Inc., with warehouses across upper New York state, had only one customer cancel a delivery, president Todd Zyra told AMM. Seventy-five percent of Klein’s planned inbound trucks did arrive, he said. “The biggest impact was the sales from (Jan. 2) for delivery (Jan. 3) were down about 30 percent because a lot of customers closed early, but we’ll make that up in a couple of days.”

“The weather is having a very nominal effect, if any, on us,” said Raymond Walker, president and chief operating officer of flat-rolled operations at Bedford Heights, Ohio-based Olympic Steel Inc. “All of our facilities are open and all employees made it to work.”

“We have had some delays with our trucks, both inbound and outbound. The roads have been sketchy,” a spokeswoman at Toledo, Ohio-based Universal Metals LLC said

The roads “are tough, but they’re working on them. Things will move slowly,” a source at a New Jersey-based toll processor said.

The storm dumped eight to 10 inches of snow in the Detroit area. “We lost a few inbound deliveries and shipping was light (Jan. 2), but there was no affect on major operations,” Dave Detzel, outside sales director at Taylor, Mich.-based Voss Industries Inc., said.

“We pulled our long-distance trucks off the road. They couldn’t even get on the highways,” David Wolff, vice president of operations at Saginaw, Mich.-based Peerless Steel, said. “It was 12 (degrees) below (zero) and some trucks wouldn’t start. Three inbound trucks didn’t show up.”

Many scrap suppliers suffered a previous disruption in the flow of material when a blast of wintry weather descended on the eastern half of the country in early December. A large storm extending from the Great Lakes and Northeast to the Central Gulf Coast produced freezing rain and sleet over parts of the Mid-Atlantic, with snow developing over the Great Lakes into New England.

Several sources said they experienced a “somewhat serious disruption” in day-to-day operations, and shipping delays caused by dangerous conditions on highways created a slight backlog in flow.

One scrap trader noted that some suppliers were using the weather as an excuse to hold material through year-end. “They were planning on holding the scrap until January anyway,” he said. “Mills get hungry in January, not December.”

With the help of U.S. Coast Guard ice breakers, iron ore carriers continued to ply the Great Lakes despite the early winter storms.

“The navigation season is not over. It’s tough sledding on the lakes--it’s a real, real winter,” Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, Rocky River, Ohio. “We are having lots of delays, and that will impact the amount of cargo moving in January.”

Ice breakers worked primarily on the St. Mary’s River, which connects Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but also on western Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn., and on Lake Erie. “We still have 48 ships out, (although) some are on their final cargoes,” Nekvasil said. “The St. Mary’s River, Straits of Mackinaw and western basin of Lake Erie all have significant ice.”

“Even with temperatures dropping, operators at the Ports of Indiana don’t expect any major disruptions,” a Ports of Indiana spokeswoman told AMM. “Overnight (Jan. 3) Burns Harbor finally froze over. There seems to be more trouble on the lake with ice than in the harbor, but the port isn’t experiencing any major issues.”

The port authority is accustomed to climate changes. When needed, it sends tugboats out to break ice and deliver barges, the spokeswoman said. “You may see some minor delays (but barges) haven’t been prevented from getting into port. In other cases, the cold is having a minor affect on equipment starting up.”

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