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Winter storm shutting down Northeast, slows produce

Yet another fierce storm has hit the Northeast, this one shutting down ports and closing produce terminal markets early. The storm was expected to blast Boston on Thursday night and continue throughout much of New England throughout Thursday and Friday.

The Produce News reached Todd Penza, sales representative for Pinto Brothers Inc., located on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, on Thursday morning at about 9:30. “We have a crew here because we have a truck to unload,” said Penza. “The ports being closed do not really affect us because we don’t handle imports. However, it does affect us in getting our staff in, trucks with more product in and product out to customers, so everyone is affected in some way.”

He said he didn’t know how many stores on the Philadelphia market were open on Thursday morning, but that some had closed.

“We’ll keep at it as much as possible,” Penza added. “We need to be ready for the weekend. But for today, the minute we’re finished we’re out of here.”

Bruce Klein, director of marketing for Maurice A. Auerbach, located in Secaucus, NJ, told The Produce News at about 10 a.m. that people left in his office were also heading out soon.

“We have already sent just about everyone home,” he said. “Until the ports are open and we start getting product again, we’ll be selling from our present inventory, which for the most part has, fortunately, a healthy shelf life with items like garlic and ginger.”

He said that the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, NY, was open on Wednesday night, and word was out that it planned to open again on Thursday night. But mixed forecasts that included more snow, icy conditions and icy rain -- not to mention port openings or closings -- may determine who opens and who doesn’t.

“We at least have the means to work virtually today,” he pointed out optimistically. “A decade ago we would not have had the ability to stay in touch with our staff, suppliers or customers. Today we can at least keep each other informed from our homes or wherever we are waiting out the storm as to when we’ll be functioning again.”

Steve Koster, spokesperson for E. Armata, located on the Hunts Point Terminal Market, told The Produce News that the company did have staff in on Thursday, and it was selling what it had on hand. “But weather conditions are worsening,” he said. “Lack of product is looming, as there are trucks and rail shipments already backed up from the West. The ports in the Northeast will probably not get their shipments to the market until early next week. With the Hunts Point market closed Monday, older and new shipments will be hitting at the same time. What a challenging winter!”

On Thursday, Feb. 13, issued an alert that stated that due to the severity of the predicted storm that night and expected to continue through Friday, container terminals in the port of NY/NJ would be closed on Thursday. The port stated that it would advise on Friday at 1 p.m. as to the gate opening hours for Friday morning, adding that individual terminal websites would also post additional information as it became available.