Ice storm snarling package deliveries

OKLAHOMA CITY — Whether you’re ready to ship that holiday package across the country or waiting for your next shipment of cooking grease, now’s not the best time to be in a hurry.

Businesses small and large are waiting for pickups and consumers across the land are receiving notices that their packages will be delayed because of a massive, icy blast that will eventually hit from coast-to-coast.

For people who rely on the shipping industry, the storm comes at the worst time: the height of the holiday mailing season.

“Really with this event, we are looking at it almost like we would a hurricane,” said Lucas McDonald, a senior emergency manager for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Knowing hazardous conditions were coming, the company shipped extra merchandise to stores ahead of the storm.

“As we get to this point, in some cases we have had to take our drivers off the road, and so that’s OK because we’ve already got the merchandise there,” said McDonald, a former TV meteorologist.

Carlos Suarez, who usually shops online, received a notice Thursday that a video game he ordered on Amazon couldn’t be delivered within two days — contrary to the $80 fee he pays each year to guarantee rapid deliveries.

“In this situation it was just a dumb video game,” Suarez said. “We sometimes order medicine through the mail and that could have been a little more frustrating.”

Memphis, Tenn.,-based FedEx, too, notified customers of delays, taking cues from a team of 15 meteorologists to highlight on its website the winter storm that started along the west coast and reached Ohio and western Pennsylvania on Friday.

“On any given day we have 1,000 contingency plans in place,” FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler said. “What we’re doing is pinpointing the forecast down to basically a piece of real estate. It could be a mile or two-mile runway at 3 a.m., what’s going to happen to that.”

At UPS’ Global Operations Centers in Louisville, Ky., five meteorologists monitor global weather around the clock.

At the National Weather Center in Norman, Kevin Kloesel, the associate dean for public service and outreach, said many companies hire their own weathermen to help ensure goods aren’t stopped halfway to their destination.

“Over the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of private weather companies that can satisfy the niche that is required by the retailer, which is a point forecast for either a store or a detailed forecast for a route,” he said.

But one doesn’t have to run a major corporation to be troubled by this kind of weather. In Oklahoma City, Array of Flowers owner Nita Dillard usually relies on a local co-op to brighten up days in gloomy weather but workers Friday had to brave icy and snow-packed city streets to make deliveries themselves.

“The biggest problem we have is that it’s going to take us a whole lot longer. We’re going to have to move a lot slower, but we’ll get them there eventually,” Dillard said.

It helps that there are few cars on the road, as many people just elect to stay inside.

The uncongested roads are a blessing, too, to Jonathan Odom, an independent truck driver from Oklahoma City who hauled watermelons and pineapples from Galveston, Texas, to ice-stricken Dallas early Friday and was waiting in Fort Worth for a load of cooking grease.

“I live for this stuff,” Odom said. “Any time there’s bad weather like this, I like getting out in the middle of it.”

Odom, who planned to drive to Oklahoma City Friday afternoon, acknowledged poor road conditions slow him down, but he said it’s just a matter of being aware.

“You just have to plan,” he said. “It doesn’t seem it’s quite as bad with other truck drivers, as it is with people in their cars.”

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Drone’s ease piercing of NY ‘no-fly’ zone underscores risks

An Army Black Hawk helicopter suffered damage to one of its rotor blades, but was able to land safely.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

US prosecutors move to cash in on $8.5M in seized bitcoin

The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when a suspect was arrested on drug charges.

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Before the buyout, 21st Century Fox will spin off the Fox network, stations and cable channels.

Most Read