Business

Charlotte grocers stock up ahead of Hurricane Florence amid shopper frenzy

Shelves of bottled water at the Target in Midtown in Charlotte were heavily picked over Tuesday morning as shoppers prepare for Hurricane Florence.
Shelves of bottled water at the Target in Midtown in Charlotte were heavily picked over Tuesday morning as shoppers prepare for Hurricane Florence. kperalta@charlotteobserver.com

At grocery stores all over Charlotte, cases of water, jugs of milk and loaves of bread were flying off the shelves Tuesday morning as shoppers hurriedly stocked up before Hurricane Florence potentially brings torrential rains and strong winds to the area later this week.

At the Super Walmart off Sardis Road North, workers were restocking shelves with bread, and shoppers filled their carts with non-perishable items like peanut butter, ramen noodles and Spam. The Harris Teeter at Cotswold looked like a Charlotte snow day: The milk section was half empty, and all the water shelves were wiped out. A worker at the Trader Joe’s in Midtown said the store received 72 cases of spring water the night before, and that they sold out in 30 minutes.

Despite the frenzy, people shouldn’t panic: Stores all over the region this week say they’ve been slammed with customers, but they are almost constantly restocking essential grocery items, as well as other supplies like batteries, toilet paper and propane tanks.

Charlotte’s most popular grocery store, Harris Teeter, has increased deliveries of water and other supplies to its stores in the storm’s path, spokeswoman Danna Robinson said. Harris Teeter store management can answer questions about grocery delivery, as the availability of the service will vary by location, she added.

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Walmart, Charlotte’s No. 2 grocer, has its “emergency operation center” operating at its headquarters in Arkansas to monitor the storm’s path and evaluate where and when to deliver additional supplies, spokeswoman Tara Aston said.

“We’re working closely with our logistics teams to make sure we have a steady stream of products coming to our stores as long as it’s safe to do so,” Aston said.

Food Lion, Charlotte’s No. 3 grocer, is sending additional shipments of water, food, batteries and other items to its stores that are in the hurricane’s path.

“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,” spokesman Matthew Harakal said.

Hurricane Florence began its path across the Atlantic Ocean, eventually landing near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. Here are NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center images of its track.

Publix has also seen an increase in foot traffic this week as customers prepare, but stores are still stocked with essentials, spokeswoman Kimberley Reynolds said.

“Items such as water, ice, snacks, bread, soup, batteries and flashlights are selling the most. We also continue to ship additional supplies to stores, particularly pallets of water,” Reynolds said.

BJ’s Wholesale Club said Tuesday that it is offering free three-month trials to shoppers in the Carolinas and Virginia ahead of the storm. In the Charlotte region, the retailer has stores in Charlotte, Concord, Pineville and Mooresville.

Aside from grocery stores, other retailers are making sure they’re ready for customers preparing for the storm.

Academy Sports + Outdoors, for instance, is stocked with extra supplies of bottled water, flashlights, coolers, portable chargers and batteries. Lowe’s activated its 24/7 emergency command center in Wilkesboro to track the storm, and shipped more than 325 truckloads of product to the North and South Carolina coast in anticipation of the storm.

Experts say the frenzy over buying bottled water, however, may be overblown.

The three biggest threats to Charlotte’s water supply from a hurricane are fallen trees uprooting and rupturing neighborhood water service lines, an increase in overflows from sewer manholes and lift stations because of large volumes of storm water runoff and damage to above-ground sewer pipe creek crossings because of floating debris.

“None of these situations would result in large-scale or extended service interruptions,” officials with Charlotte Water told the Observer last year.

Experts recommend having water on hand before a hurricane, but it doesn’t have to be purchased: You can simply fill clean gallon jugs or pitchers up with water ahead of time.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

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