As Hurricane Florence hurtles toward the East Coast, local businesses work to meet customer demand as area residents scramble to make last-minute preparations ahead of the storm’s landfall.
Roofers have been working around the clock to fix leaks, install new roofs and put tarps over damaged roofs before the rain and winds intensify, according to Liz Heath, marketing director for York County-based Streamline Roofing.
She said the company began to see an increase in the number of roof repair calls since Sunday night, with an overall uptick in call volume of around 20 percent. The company’s roofing crews have been working overtime to attend to the new calls the company has gotten along with roof installations and repairs that were already scheduled, according to Heath.
“We’ve been very busy today, a lot of people have been reaching out to get those last-minute preparations done,” she said. “We’ve had a few people have been reaching out for new roofs that they’ve been putting off and people calling to fix leaks that they’ve been putting off.”
As the situation progresses, she said it’s unlikely that Streamline’s repair crews will be able to make it out to every call it has gotten before the storm hits. In the meantime, she said it’s extremely dangerous to climb onto a roof in rainy weather conditions, and instead advised homeowners with leaky roofs to place tarps in their attics to collect rainwater and prevent it from seeping down into their homes.
Heath said the company will continue to monitor the storm and calls its crews back when weather conditions worsen, but that they hope to get to as many customers as they can.
“What we’ve told our employees is we are on standby with the hurricane, and our main priority is that everyone is safe, but we will be working on standby situation so we’re not officially closing down,” she said. “We’re going to be taking shelter as the hurricane does hit, but we’ll be getting out there and getting to those repairs as soon as possible.”
While repair crews are out working on homes, some retail stores are struggling to keep up with the volume of customers looking for emergency supplies. Terry Deaver, president of Peninsula Ace Hardware, said the chain’s Richmond Road location has been busier than normal since last Friday, and that generators are moving off the shelves as quickly as they can stock them.
“Friday was busier than normal, Saturday was the same, yesterday was about 50 percent busier than normal and its been crazy since,” Deaver said on Monday. “I’d say we’re probably about twice as busy as we would normally be on a Monday.”
Deaver said he wasn’t expecting the jump in sales, with the hardware store typically seeing its peak sales between October and December. Other in-demand items at the hardware store include batteries, sandbags, propane, flashlights and water. The store gets two shipments of supplies per week. A restock was expected Tuesday, and the store expects to have its shelves restocked again on Friday.
“It’s been crazy. It’s one of those things, you never know how much to buy,” he said. “We bulked up on our order but most of that stuff will be gone tomorrow.”
He said he plans to keep the store open as long as it has power.
“We’ll stay up as long as we can, if we lose power we can’t, but there’s always some troopers here that are willing (to stay),” Deaver said. “I know I’ll be here.”
Grocery store chains sent extra shipments of products such as bottled water to stores in the Williamsburg area. By Tuesday afternoon, some stores still had essential supplies like bread and bottled water.
Tuesday afternoon, the Food Lion at 1234 Richmond Road still had bread. The Kmart at 118 Waller Mill Road had water and bread, and the Walgreens at 1309 Richmond Road had propane, some batteries and individual water bottles in stock.
At the Harris Teeter on Quarterpath Road on Monday, the store had bread and batteries on hand but had sold out of cases of water.
Harris Teeter spokeswoman Danna Robinson said stores throughout the region would receive more water and other goods as Florence approaches.
Food Lion corporate spokesman Matthew Harakal said the grocery store chain would send extra shipments of food, water, batteries and other items to stores throughout Hampton Roads to minimize impacts on customers because of Florence.
“Our focus is on making sure we have products on the shelves for our customers, taking precautions to protect our associates and stores from the storm and working to mobilize our associates to support any potential recovery efforts after the storm,” Harakal wrote in an email.
“As you can imagine customers are buying what we typically see in these situations – water, batteries, flashlights, nonperishable foods and we’re working hard with logistics to meet demand. We have specific distribution centers designated for these situations and they are fully engaged at this time,” Wal-Mart spokesman Casey Staheli said.
Staff writer Amelia Heymann contributed to this report.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329 or on Twitter @SPRobertsJr. Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.