Impacts of the December 22, 2004 winter storm on FedEx's Memphis operation
On December 22, 2004, a cold front was positioned east of Memphis through middle Tennessee and eastern Mississippi, low pressure was located along the front over northern Louisiana and central Mississippi, and an upper-level trough was traversing the region. This combination was producing precipitation over the Mid-South that began as rain, transitioned to freezing rain, continued for several more hours as light to moderate sleet, and ended as light snow. In the end, the region was blanketed with 2 inches of frozen precipitation, making basic exercises such as walking and driving treacherous. Needless to say, airline operations came to a near standstill and since cold air advection brought bitter cold temperatures for several days, a lack of melting resulted in extended impacts even after the precipitation ceased. FedEx aircraft that arrived in Memphis before or during the freezing precipitation event "turned into popsicles" as they sat on the ground and endured freezing temperatures through Christmas Day. In the end, hundreds of flights filled with boxes and envelopes containing Christmas cheer were cancelled and many shipments were delayed. Following the usual post-mortem FedEx undertakes after significant weather events, adjustments have been made to the winter operations procedures. In this paper, we will provide a broad overview of the Meteorology Department's role in FedEx's domestic air operation, examine the environment in the time period around the event in question, and finally look at how the storm affected both air and hub/ground operations in Memphis during Peak Week 2005.