How long do you have to order, ship holiday gifts?
You see the drivers delivering packages to your front door, but what you don't see is the huge, dedicated team it takes to get the package there.
For many, the advent of the holiday season means a parade of packages arriving on their doorstep – or a few last-minute orders.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone amid a condensed shopping season, and the message from shipping companies to order sooner rather than later, especially regarding weather conditions, is resounding.
"The sooner the better," UPS Flight Operations Meteorologist Jeff Sarver told AccuWeather. "Have your packages shipped early because winter weather could possibly impact or delay a delivery. But as long as everyone is on time with shipping and purchasing, there should be no issues with getting the packages to where they gotta go."
Through thickly falling snow, a UPS delivery man brings a package to a row house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, Friday, Feb. 5, 2010. A massive snowstorm was expected to hit the area with as much as 30 inches of snow to fall by Saturday night. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
When planning out how long you should procrastinate buying holiday gifts, here are the absolute holiday shopping deadlines at major shipping carriers.
Without weather factored in, if you order gifts through Amazon, for instance, and use the free shipping (5 to 8 day shipping) option, the deadline is Saturday, Dec. 14, or for two-day shipping the deadline is Sunday, Dec. 22. USPS's deadline for First Class Mail is Friday, Dec. 20, and UPS's deadline for ground shipments is Friday, Dec. 13. Monday, Dec. 16 is FedEx's ground shipments deadline.
There are some service such as UPS and FedEx that will still deliver on holidays such as Christmas Day. However, there may also be a fee involved.
"Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are not typical service days for FedEx. We don’t typically deliver on those days," FedEx spokesperson Bonnie Harrison told AccuWeather. "However, depending on what is going on with surges in volumes or last-minute needs as we get closer especially to Christmas, we can change that and add some operation on those important days."
A delivery man wheels a cart filled with packages across the snow covered streets in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. Forecasts for the Boston area called for about a foot of snow during the day and blizzard-like conditions. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The combination of inclement winter weather and the influx of orders around Black Friday and Cyber Monday provides a variety of obstacles for shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx to overcome. However, the guiding light that steers them through weather from fog to blizzards doesn't come from the nose of a reindeer, but rather their teams of meteorologists.
"Our job mainly is to monitor world-wide weather trends, events and make sure that all of those that need that information in the company are getting that from us," FedEx Meteorologist Erik Proseus told AccuWeather. The operation runs 24/7, 365 days a year with a meteorologist always on staff.
The FedEx Meteorology Department operates from the Global Operations Control Center (GOC), which Proseus describes as the "nerve center of the airline." Here, the meteorologists work with flight crews, monitoring conditions that could affect the aircraft.
Large-scale weather events such as nor'easters can impact a handful of important gateways, Sarver said.
David Lopez, a delivery person for FedEx, directs a cart of packages for dropoff at a gallery in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007, as a second winter storm swept over the intermountain West in the past three days and left up to 10 inches of snow on the region. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
But even small, precise and quick weather events can still interfere with shipping efforts.
The most severe recent weather event that affected FedEx operations was the tornado touchdown at Memphis International Airport on Oct. 21. The airport is one of FedEx's "SuperHubs," where all of their airplanes are located, according to Proseus.
"We were responsible for making sure those employees are safe, that they know what the threat is and that they can return to work as soon as that threat passes, and fortunately for that event, everything worked out," Proseus said. "The employees were all fine."
As December moseys on, a few wintry storms are forecast to march across the continental U.S. around the middle of December and just before Christmas.
"A storm around Dec. 9 to 12 across the Ohio Valley, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic can lead to 1- to 2-day delays on shipping with difficult driving conditions in the Great Lakes region extending to the interior Northeast," Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather's top long-range forecaster, said.
Weather conditions leading up to Christmas, especially in the northern tier of the U.S., could complicate deliveries once again.
"A storm may come out from the Southwest and track across the country the two to three days leading up to Christmas for last-minute shoppers," Pastelok said.
The storm may lead to more shipping delays from the north-central Plains to the Northeast. It isn't as likely to affect the South, according to Pastelok.Report a Typo