Depending on where you are in the world, the holiday season often delivers its own unwanted gift-rough weather. It’s the kind of weather that doesn’t just cause your car to skid, rather shuts down roads, leaves you stranded at airports, disrupts large-scale global business, can cost billions of dollars in damages, and sadly, can even cost lives.
This is where the FedEx meteorology team delivers a crucial service-contingency planning. There have been several instances over the last decade when my team has been on top of severe weather, like when significant ice and snow in Memphis threatened operations. The pending ice storm forced us to execute a backup plan - delaying the afternoon package sort in Memphis in favour of rerouting aircraft through our other hubs. Times like this require trust and confidence in the meteorology team.
Without our early warning of that storm which left nearly an inch of ice on the ground, FedEx crews would have had to de-ice more than 100 aircraft, significantly delaying the larger operation, and risking the safety of our ramp personnel and hub team members battling the elements. While our decision created a logistical challenge because our crews and aircraft were in other places, the end result far outweighed the safety and operational risks the ice would have caused.
Whether it’s heavy rain and snow, tornadoes, typhoons, hurricanes or erupting volcanos, FedEx meteorologists track the events from our Global Operations Control Centre (GOCC) in Memphis, TN, U.S.A. We monitor weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Even during the most turbulent weather events, the 15-member FedEx weather team helps keep the company’s employees, aircraft, trucks and millions of packages moving safely through the network, in the U.K. and beyond.
The department began in 1986 when the company saw added value in appointing its own body of forecasters which could monitor the weather around the globe, and around the clock. Since then, the department has continued to fine-tune its operation. Today, our team uses flight tracking tools that show us the exact location of every FedEx aircraft in the sky. Our color-coded “War Board” lets us track any potential disruption as it relates to weather or maintenance delays.
We have the capability to forecast runway visibility when it drops below ½ mile. This is different than other weather agencies, and provides more accurate information for the FedEx pilot in the cockpit. Our team uses weather dashboards to pull forecasting information in real time. Those dashboards allow us to overlay other weather agency data with our own forecasts to show where weather watches and warnings are in effect.
This technology, coupled with our own expertise, means FedEx forecasters constantly play a major role in critical decision-making that affects not only the on-time delivery of packages, but also the safety of our team members around the world. We hold daily weather briefings to help our operations teams plan appropriately, especially if a big storm is expected to disrupt flights and service. As with the ice storm in Memphis, forecasting on the front end means flights can be rerouted to other airports to minimize delays and impact to the overall operation, while keeping our team members safe and our customers as happy as possible.
While the weather changes day-to-day and season-to-season, our commitment remains the same. The operation must continue in the safest possible way, rain or shine, whatever the weather.