Store shelves emptying as people panic buy due to highway closures

Panic buying begins

Cindy White

Panic buying is being reported at grocery stores across the Thompson-Okanagan.

People are worried because the Southern Interior is cut off from the coast due to the floods and mudslides that have closed most major highway connections.

They’re snapping up everything from fresh produce and meat to milk, and grocery stores are wondering when their next deliveries will come through.

It comes at a time when there were already supply chain constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the holiday shopping season here, there are concerns retailers won’t have enough stock to fill their shelves and meet demand, during one of their busiest times of the year.

“The logistics supply chain industry and trucking is part of that, is extremely good at finding alternatives and coming up with solutions. That’s what we’re paid to do,” said Dave Earle, President and CEO, BC Trucking Association.

“Even if there are long-term repairs needed on major routes, we will find a way to get goods through, government will find a way to support the movement of goods and people.

It’s not going to be easy. No one is looking forward to this by any stretch, but we’re confident we’ll find a way to be able to keep the supply chain moving,’ he adds.

Earle’s advice, don’t panic, they’re used to weather-related disruptions.

“One of the things to keep in mind is that, as much as this is unprecedented in terms of a flood event, we see this every winter with snow events. And at times it can be one highway, at times it can be all three of the major routes. Sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s more.”

Consumers can expect to pay more, but not an excessive amount.

Earle explains that 10 per cent of the cost of goods is generally related to transportation, and a major disruption could end up adding an additional one per cent.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth was asked about the situation Tuesday.

“The rail links to Kamloops to the rest of Canada are operating, the trucks routes east to west across Northern BC through Alberta to bring good and supplies in are operating.”

“There are challenges, but there are also options," he added, explaining the situation is not that dire.

On Tuesday afternoon, there was a 10 minute wait to enter the Save-On-Foods on Highway 33 in Rutland.

Extremely long waits were also reported at the Kelowna Costco on Tuesday.

Photos posted to social media may provide a feeling a deja vu from early in the pandemic as some shoppers inexplicably are stocking up on toilet paper.

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