Grocery stores in Texas heavily impacted by Harvey
Thursday, September 07, 2017
Texas is in recovery mode, but the road to recovery is going to be a long one. In the areas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, grocery stores are at work to reopen and restock their shelves with milk, bread and other essentials.
Large chains, with more capital and resources at their disposal, have gone to extreme lengths. H-E-B, for instance, flew in their truck drivers by helicopter to ensure deliveries and service on time. They even booked hotel rooms in advance for out-of-state employees who flew in to work after the storm ended.
Kroger had employees from other states ride into the state in their company buses for the same reason. Walmart tapped their distribution centers across the nation to bring essentials like water and nonperishable food into the state.
These chains are trained to handle disasters and had been preparing for Harvey before the storm hit. Even then, they were taken aback by the fury of the storm and struggled to stay open and service their customers despite preparations.
One can only imagine how much harder it has been for the smaller, local grocery stores. As the waters receded and people filtered back to the stores, the store owners were the first to witness shock and heartbreak.
Along with flooding, they also had to deal with additional issues like power outages and staff shortages. The latter was the result of hundreds stranded without the means of travel or rescue across the impacted zones.
Major retailers and local grocers have been pushing hard to serve Harvey's victims — people who have lost their homes and belongings, and those struggling to find basic amenities like food and water, along with necessary clothing. As Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard noted, serving people to the best of their abilities make grocery stores "right up there with first responders."
H-E-B seemed the most prepared with its mobile pharmacy ready to fill prescriptions in this time of need. A Houston-based microgrid company aided H-E-B grocery stores in the Houston area to stay open with the help of its on-site generators and underground natural gas pipeline system.
Walmart has sent more than 1,000 18-wheelers to South Texas in the past week, the majority of them carrying bottled water. As shoppers slowly drifted back to the stores, the first buys were inevitably for water, followed by food items that were ready-to-eat and nonperishable. Canned goods and paper items, wipes and disinfectants also scored high in demand. With massive power outages, stores also saw flashlights flying off the shelves.
Along with grocery stores, home improvement stores like Home Depot saw a surge in sales before the storm. People drove in hordes to buy hurricane preparation supplies that could protect their properties and keep them safe. A week later, it was the rebuilding phase, and these stores are seeing increasing footfalls once more.
It's common for crime to escalate in situations like these. Texas stores saw reports of looting and shooting, but one particular gunman picked up his shotgun for a good cause. A viral video showed this "ex-SWAT deputy" guarding a Houston grocery store and preventing it from being ransacked. His actions not only saved the store from being looted but also left the food and essentials inside for those who needed it most.
For grocery stores racing to restock their shelves, it has been a logistical nightmare. While shoppers suffered, area groceries felt the impact of Hurricane Harvey in loss of sales and property damage as well. As the storm surged inland, one store after another closed, adding to the woes and waves of losses. With distribution centers hit in the affected areas, even stores that were open soon sported empty shelves and couldn't serve customers.
Retailers with big teams like Walmart, H-E-B and Albertson's have banded together to make hot meals and serve them along with supplies to people in need. They have delivered truckloads of food and water to distribution points, food banks and shelters to help to relief measures.
They have donated to relief efforts and started funds to add to these efforts. Some have begun operations with partially stocked stores. Though life is slowly limping back to normal, they don't know when they will go back to being 100 percent functional.
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