- In the wake of Winter Storm Izzy, shoppers found shelves empty.
- Perishable items can be most at risk when the weather is bad.
- This week could see another storm that could bring icy conditions.
Recent wintry weather has added to the pressure on a supply chain already strained by shipping woes, labor shortages, and rising COVID-19 cases.
“Ordinarily the storm we saw in the South and kind of along the Eastern Seaboard the past couple days would be a major disruptive, but ultimately short-lived, event,” Aaron Terrazas, director of economic research at trucking network Convoy, told in an interview Tuesday. “Given all the other disruptions in supply chains going on right now, be it the Omicron wave which has kind of meant labor availability is pretty tight, port disruptions, input production disruptions … all that amplifies the supply chain disruptions with these major storms.”
(MORE: Late-Week Winter Storm May Bring Snow, Ice Threat to South, Southern Mid-Atlantic)
The shortages were felt in the late last week and early in this week. Shoppers in areas affected by Winter Storm Izzy tried to stock up on groceries but found shelves empty in New York and Atlanta. Izzy caused traffic jams on some Southern ports and shut down parts of interstates. This was after earlier storms had blocked major driving routes in Northwest and hampered truck traffic in the Midwest.
Perishable goods are more vulnerable to weather disruptions because of their short shelf life.
“Usually you expect to see those restocked within three to five days after roads reopen and traffic conditions become safe again,” Terrazas said.
However, it is possible that it will take longer. Terrazas stated that things are stabilizing in the southern regions of the country, but that higher refrigerator truck prices – a sign of demand – still remain in the Northeast.
“The South is going to see more availability of goods to the extent that goods are available in production chains,” he said. “The Northeast looks like it’s still digging out.”
As is often the case at this time of year it could quickly turn bad once again.
A brewing winter storm could bring more snow and/or ice to parts the Southeast and Southern Mid-Atlantic by this week. As of Wednesday afternoon, winter storm alerts were in effect for parts of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic as well as the Ohio Valley, Central Appalachians, southern Texas, Ohio Valley, and southern Texas.
“We’re all worried about back-to-back storms,” Terrazas said. “That just kind of compounds all the disruptions.”
What can a consumer do to make sure they are stock-checked? Terrazas suggests checking stock in the largest stores and the smallest.
“Manufacturers and producers prioritize loads to their most important customers and so typically … you’re more likely to find goods at the two extremes of retailers, very large retailers that have buying power and very small retailers that have kind of tight relationships with their producers,” he said.
Stock up when you can find what you need. But leave some for your neighbours.
The uncertainties combined make it impossible to predict when the supply chain woes would end.
“Typically we start to see trucking markets normalize about two weeks after a major weather event,” Terrazas said. “That is normal. These are not normal times.”
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