Consumers ransacked retail shelves as another storm dumped snow and ice on the Deep South and Eastern Seaboard, and many of those shelves stayed bare as produce companies basically shut down with gridlocked traffic keeping trucks off the road.
Atlanta and other southern cities were hit hard early with snow and ice Feb. 12 while Baltimore and Washington, D.C., residents were socked with 10-15 inches of snow on Feb. 13.
“It was a mess and was just crazy,” David Collins III, president of Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc., on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park, Ga., said Feb. 13.
While up to 300 people normally work at the wholesale operation and sister retail distributor, Collins Bros. Corp., on Feb. 12, only three individuals were on the job.
A truck loaded with onions flipped on its side 10 miles south of the market. and Collins said the storm shut down most of Atlanta. The market officially stayed open, but most companies were closed.
“The roads are slick but are getting better,” he said. “There’s hardly any traffic on the road. The phones are ringing off the hook and we’re jammed-up today. Orders are coming from out of state to here and we’re trying to unload as quickly as we can with our limited staff. It is nuts out there.”
The snow and ice moved into the Northeast and disrupted movement in the nation’s capitol region.
Jessup, Md.-based G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard closed 10 p.m. on Feb. 12.
The company reopened for business the afternoon on Feb. 13, said Sal Cefalu, owner and director of parent company CGC Holdings.
The company planned to postpone inbound trucks until Feb. 14 and Cefalu said many truckers were forced to find places to wait out the storm as freezing rain moved in.
“It’s never good when a storm like this, the kind we haven’t had in the last three to four years, affects business as we can’t ship product,” he said. “But for the most part, it’s worked out so far so good. Hopefully the orders will pick up and we’ll gain some ground from the one day we lost.”
Hazardous driving conditions tightened capacity and raised freight rates, said Robert Goldstein, president and owner of Genpro Inc., Rutherford, N.J.
“It’s definitely delayed us and has thrown our capacity off of their terms,” he said. “It has an impact for sure on inventory requirements and on trucks turning the way they normally do. The weather delays the in-transit times and throws a lot of the carriers off their turn cycles for backhauls.”
Shipments from suppliers, including tomatoes from the DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla., were delayed.
“Trucks don’t want to deliver product as they’re afraid of the ice,” Tony DiMare, vice president, said Feb. 11. “This is having many adverse effects on the industry. During the snow event that they had couple of weeks ago, trucks were stranded and product was late in getting delivered.
“We couldn’t get trucks turned around and back to the f.o.b. end. At same time, truck rates went up significantly again this week,” DiMare said. It’s a domino effect that’s trickling back to the grower-shipper level.”