As Hurricane Fran's wrath fizzled out, supermarket operators in the Mid-Atlantic spent the early part of last week trying to get things back to normal.
While several operators told SN their stores and distribution centers sustained little damage from the Sept. 5 storm, they said widespread power outages forced stores to close for as little as a few hours to as long as a few days in some places. On the supply end, area wholesalers said crews worked double duty to get stores stocked and back on regular delivery schedules.
Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., was one chain that felt the brunt of the fierce weather and its aftermath. Nearly 300 Food Lion stores lost power during the storm and, four days later, about 40 supermarkets in North Carolina and Virginia were still waiting for electricity to come back, said spokeswoman Cecily N. Durrett. "The main issue is getting electricity back on, which is not something we have control over," she added. "The good news is that there are more and more stores coming back on-line."
The chain has stores in the Wilmington, N.C., area -- the area hardest hit by Fran -- and was still assessing the total damage done to its supermarkets and products last week, Durrett said. Despite Food Lion's extensive preparation, it's hard to predict what a hurricane will do, she explained. "In this part of the country, hurricanes are something we live with, and we try as hard as possible to deal with them," she said. "The wild card is not knowing where they are going to land and with what strength."
Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, suffered minor damage to its Warsaw, N.C., distribution center, said spokesman Shane Boyd. He said the weather caused some leaks in the roof that were quickly repaired, and the facility ran on generators until Sept. 9 when power was restored.
"We caught up on deliveries over the weekend and were back on schedule by Sunday, at least to all the stores that were accepting deliveries," Boyd said. He added that Fleming had to temporarily look to out-of-state vendors for some of its pork and poultry products while local suppliers rebounded from the storm.
Stock replenishment was the main focus at Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., Charleston Heights, S.C., said Rita Postell, community and employee relations manager. In anticipation of the storm, the wholesaler moved extra shipments of emergency supplies and bottled water to its stores, nearly exhausting supplies at its warehouses, she said. Though South Carolina only had a slight brush with Fran, hurricane season is far from over, and operators still have to be prepared for the worst, she noted.
"I am curious to see how much water and batteries moved out of these warehouses," Postell said. "All of our stores are up and operating now, but we're just getting geared up for the next one that may come."