BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Ahead of the winter storm last week, grocery stores could not stock shelves fast enough with essentials like milk and bread.
Almost a week later, shoppers are still seeing either bare shelves or a very limited selection of bread, particularly.
The shortage in the bread supply, however, is not because the bread makers are loafing around. Instead, the blame sits squarely on the dangerously icy roads.
Flowers Baking Company of Batesville makes popular brands of bread like Wonder Bread and Nature's Own. The company also ships that bread all over Arkansas and Missouri as well as Illinois.
Barry Hammers, the baking company's president, said when the workers heard about the winter storm last week, they did their best to anticipate the shopping frenzy that they knew would ensue at grocery stores all across the area.
"We saw that the news was reporting that the ice storm was coming," Hammers said. "Of course you really don't know where it's all going to hit and what all is going to be affected when you cover such a big market, so we actually put an enormous amount of product in the market Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday up until the storm."
Once the storm hit Thursday night and blanketed the roads in ice, Hammers said the company had no choice but to halt any bread deliveries and to keep its fleet off the roads for a few days.
"At some point, you've just got to say stop, stay home, don't get out, let's be safe, let's wait till the ice melts off, wait till the road crews clear the roads," he said, "and then we'll move forward."
"Our first concern," he added, "was the safety of our employees coming to the bakery to produce the product and most of all our transportation to get to the marketplace. The roads were impassable and not only impassable [last] Thursday and Friday, but almost through Tuesday and Wednesday as well."
Despite the dangerously slick conditions, workers were still able to make it to the bakery and keep baking loaves so that the bread supply would stay the same. Hammers, however, said the problem was not in production, but in delivery.
"Once we baked it, we couldn't get [the bread] out of the bakery," he said. "There was nowhere to go with it, so we're now playing catch-up."
"When you're sitting here and your product's sitting in the bakery or sitting on the trucks and you're just waiting to get it out and you can't go anywhere, it's very disappointing," he added.
Now that the ice has melted off the major roadways as well as the baking company's trucks, Hammers would like to assure customers one thing.
"I can assure you," he said, "that you can look for our products back on the shelf, back in business ready to feed you and your family."
Flowers Baking Company sent out a few deliveries on Wednesday but returned to running the normal routes again on Thursday. Hammers said people should expect to see store shelves fully stocked with their products by Friday at the latest.