Monday, January 25, 2016

The Weather Outside

Winter Storm Jonas shuts down transportation and the entire East Coast.

Mother Nature showed who is in charge over the weekend. The winter storm known as Jonas paralyzed much of the eastern portion of the country last week, wreaking havoc on distribution systems along with everything else. The same snowfall that gave the kids snow days shut down highways, freight terminals, rail lines and the ports from Memphis to Richmond, Baltimore, New York and New Jersey. At least 27 fatalities were attributed to the storm, from traffic accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks while shoveling snow.

Air freight was not immune, with Jonas dumping 28 inches of snow at Dulles Airport, and JFK digging out from 30 inches. The storm missed being the heaviest snowfall ever on Manhattan by 1/10 inch, with 26.8 inches falling in Central Park. There was a “chicken and egg” situation with motor freight carriers, as both they and their customers needed each other to resume operations to be able to pick up and deliver loads.

 “The biggest concern for us is are customers ready to receive deliveries,” whether it’s city street access or customers having cleared their receiving areas and parking lots, said New England Motor Freight president Tom Connery. NEMF has its own snow removal equipment and crews, so when the roads are ready to be travelled, the company will be ready to hit the ground running, he said. Norfolk Southern Railway on Friday told shippers that it expected delays from 24 to 48 hours in the areas expected to be hit the hardest by the storm.

UPS said before Jonas’ arrival there would be no pick-ups or deliveries in affected areas, but contingency plans were in place to minimize disruption as much as possible. FedEx said its Memphis, Tennessee, hub was suffering “substantial” disruptions that would impact deliveries scheduled for arrival Friday and it also had plans in place to reduce the impact on shippers.

Preliminary damage estimates climbed into the billions of dollars, but it is too early to assess the storm’s final impact on supply chains and transportation infrastructure as a whole. “Serious” effects along the massive storm’s 1,000-mile front included closing the fishing pier in Naples, Florida on Saturday, and the cancellation of Bruce Springsteen’s show scheduled for Sunday at Madison Square Garden – so even the Boss got bossed around. Whaddya gonna do?

Kirk Shearer

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