(Feb. 18) WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions dug themselves out of one of the worst snowstorms to hit the regions in years, produce shipments were facing long delays.

Many produce shipments were stalled, said Dave Nystie, a manager at the Los Angeles branch of Minneapolis-based C.H. Robinson.

“Maybe 50% is getting through,” Nystie said. “One driver said it took him two hours to drive 5 miles.”

Snowfall totals of 2 to 4 feet were reported from the Ohio Valley to New England Feb. 17-18.

The storm dumped more than 27 inches on Boston, its heaviest snowfall since records were first kept in 1892. The National Weather Service was forecasting slight additional accumulations Feb. 18, before the system would blow offshore.

Washington’s Dulles International Airport got 24.2 inches, and New York’s Central Park received nearly 20.

Airport traffic was just beginning to resume Feb. 18 in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, after having been virtually shut down the day before. Boston’s Logan airport had only one runway open, and about 35% of the flights at Philadelphia International Airport were cancelled.

For produce shippers, the wintry mess resulted in long delays for any shipments that actually got through.

“We’re looking at multiple hour to (day-long) delays delivering to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York,” he said. “And, we’re seeing abbreviated times. Let’s say a normal warehouse in Pennsylvania would unload for 10 hours during the day. We’re maybe only getting five hours, because a lot of people didn’t show up for work.”

Nystie said that the weather had forced Robinson to close branches on the East Coast.

“We’re sending people home in Philly, New Jersey and even in Virginia,” he said.

The problems are not limited to C.H. Robinson.

“We’re all pretty much experiencing the same thing,” said Steve Lowe, a manager at Los Angeles-based truck broker Allen Lund Co. Inc. “It’s pretty much a standstill. We have customers who are there (waiting for deliveries) with nothing more than skeletal crews.”

And, he added, the longer traffic is backed up, the longer it will take to get things back to normal.

“The problem is, they’ve got the warehouse receiving for the big guys at the Costcos and the Wal-Marts and those guys,” Lowe said Feb. 18. “They have double receiving today and will have triple receiving tomorrow. They get backed up and it usually takes about a receiving day to catch up.”

Nystie said that it was difficult to gauge when things would return to normal.

“Usually, it’s within 48 to 72 hours of when it stops snowing,” he said. “It’s still snowing out there today. I’d say, probably, it could (return to normal) by next Monday. It (the number of deliveries) should go up as the weather improves.”