After losing $3 million worth of fresh foods to Hurricane Katrina, and anticipating power losses in Rita's wake, officials at Rouse Supermarkets canceled orders for perishables just before Rita touched down. Breaux Mart Supermarkets, based in Metairie, La., also suffered substantial losses of fresh foods to Katrina.
Spoiled perishables add to the challenge of cleaning up after a storm, noted Barry Breaux, owner of the supermarket chain. As Rita approached the shore, he let fresh foods sell down. Breaux closed his three open stores just before Rita landed so associates could get out of the area.
As it turned out, power outages were not as extensive as some had expected, but Breaux told SN last week that he lost some fresh foods in open cases due to power loss. Also, repairs to one store's roof, which had been damaged by Katrina, had to be delayed as the new storm approached. As a result, additional foods were lost when the roof leaked during Rita's downpour.
"The dispersal of a lot of people again affected us more than anything," Breaux said. "It put us four or five days behind in cleaning up and recovering from Katrina as everybody -- our associates, customers and repairmen -- got out of harm's way."
Meanwhile, Charles Hamblen, meat/seafood director at the Rouse chain, told SN last week that just five of the company's stores suffered relatively short power outages, and none were damaged by Rita. Yet south of Houma, flooding almost certainly affected shrimp processing plants that serve Rouse and other retailers, he said.
"We got more water than we had expected, because the winds were coming from the south," Hamblen said. "It just kept coming and coming. Some of our suppliers south of here have been affected, I'm sure. There's as much as seven feet of water in that area, and we haven't been able to reach one of our packers there."