(Dec. 27) The Christmas snowstorms that blanketed much of the Northeast were barely a blip on the produce industry’s radar, causing only minor delays on some shipments.

But just as the sun and snowplows were putting things right again Dec. 26, forecasters were predicting another large weather system could wreak havoc in the Northeast by New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The system could build from the Rockies and move through the Great Lakes and into the Northeast by then, bringing a mix of freezing rain and snow.

The icy conditions could lead to transportation slowdowns. But even that might not be enough to affect produce shipments, if the record-setting Christmas Day snow was any judge. Observers said shipments loaded around the holidays were given an extra day anyway, so delays were minimal.

Stephen Gray, a transportation broker in the Boston offices of Allen Lund Co. Inc., said a few deliveries were held up only a little bit Dec. 26. Because of the holiday, product loaded on the West Coast the previous Friday was for a Thursday rather than Wednesday delivery, he said.

“We try to track the weather for the next five days,” Gray said. “But the only thing we can do is let people know on the day of (if delays are expected).”

That many businesses were closed for the Christmas holiday was no doubt a blessing. In New York, officials closed 100 miles of the state’s main east-west highway as Albany recorded more than 19 inches of snow, nearly doubling the record of 11 inches set in 1978. More than a foot of snow fell throughout interior parts of Pennsylvania and New England.

Cleveland registered 10 inches of snow, also nearly double its 1944 record of 5.8 inches.
A salesman at W.H. Lailer & Co. Inc., at the New England Produce Center in Boston, said his firm had encountered no problems that were caused by the weather. And Mario Andreani, sales manager for Katzman Berry Corp., New York, said snow hadn’t affected deliveries or his company’s temporary buying pattern.

“We really didn’t get a lot of snow here in the city,” Andreani said. “They got a lot in Jersey, but they cleared off the roads pretty quick.”

Andreani said cool weather in production areas such as Florida has been affecting his ability to procure product. Harvests in the Sunshine State were being slowed on items like strawberries and some vegetables as overnight lows dipped into the 40s. Daytime highs remained in the 60s as far south as Naples.