Residents of the Midwest and the Great Lakes region will contend with an Arctic front causing snowfall and frigid temperatures until Christmas Eve, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service, posing threats to travel plans as airlines cancel flights and poor driving conditions impact the nation’s roads. Services such as FedEx and UPS warned of widespread delays on Friday.
“FedEx Express experienced substantial disruptions at our Memphis and Indianapolis hubs last night due to severe winter weather that has been moving across the United States,” FedEx said in a statement, adding that delays are possible for nationwide package deliveries on Friday and Saturday. “The safety of our team members remains our number one priority.”
UPS said in a statement that “significant weather events across several regions” of the country are impacting air and ground networks, including hubs in Louisville and Rockford. “We will work to ensure the safety of our employees while minimizing effects on service,” the company announced. “Contingency plans are in place to help ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as conditions permit.”
The United States Postal Service also said that 89 post offices have been closed as a result of the storm, according to a report from CNN. Most of the affected locations are in North Dakota and South Dakota, with six closed locations in Nebraska and five each in Minnesota and Iowa.
Amazon also reported the temporary shuttering of some locations. “Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve temporarily closed some of our sites in the impacted areas,” Amazon spokesperson Barbara Agrait told the outlet. “We’ll continue monitoring weather patterns and will reopen sites and resume operations when it’s safe to do so.”
The dismal news for major delivery services comes as holiday retail sales are expected to grow between 6% and 8% since last year to possibly surpass $960 billion, according to data from the National Retail Federation. Consumers are increasingly reliant upon online shopping rather than in-store purchases, continuing a trend that accelerated during the lockdown-induced recession.
Although the growth appears to surpass the average 4.9% annual increase witnessed over the past decade, the expansion will be eclipsed by record inflation, which rose year-over-year at a 7.1% rate as of last month, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With respect to holiday travel, nearly 102 million Americans plan to drive to their holiday destinations, marking an increase of two million drivers since last year despite recent increases in gas prices, according to data from AAA. Meanwhile, roughly 54 million passengers will depart from airports between December 18 and January 3, constituting a 20% increase from last year, according to data from Hopper.
An explanation for the increase in holiday travel could lie in the growing acceptance of virtual work arrangements. “With hybrid work schedules, we are seeing more people take long weekends to travel because they can work remotely at their destination and be more flexible with the days they depart and return,” AAA Senior Vice President of Travel Paula Twidale remarked.