Following Hurricane Sandy’s wrath, a reported 194 of Wawa’s 601 stores faced power outages Tuesday afternoon—mostly stores in the hardest hit areas of New Jersey, southern Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
And Wawa was not alone. Some 33 Giant Food Stores in the Philadelphia suburbs were relying on generators and ice-packed trucks in parking lots on Tuesday. The temperature of perishables in freezers and refrigerators were being carefully monitored, and if the temperatures rose too far, the products would be rushed into truck filled with dry ice.
As customers rushed around searching for gas for their own emergency generators and a hot coffee, as their own electric coffee pots were useless—they found Wawa stores to be in much the same boat they were.
“Our facilities team worked days in advance to get a hold of generators,” Wawa’s senior vice president of store operations, Sal Mattera told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That team is in the process of determining which stores get those generators.”
After power began to fail on Monday, Wawa closed 450 stores overnight—289 because of power outages, the rest to protect workers—any by evening Tuesday 126 stores were still closed because of power outages, spokeswoman Lori Bruce said.
Even with all its preparations and experience with storms in the past, Wawa found the high winds of Sandy and the magnitude of the power outages presented challenges well beyond the usual snowstorm or area flood. “There’s just a limited number of generators that are available in a crisis of this nature,” Mattera said. “As an organization, it’s frustrating to us because we want to be there,” Mattera said. Adding the chain aims to be open 24/7, 365 days a year.
In the days ahead of Sandy, Rutter’s Farm Store’s based in York, Pa. warned customers that stores could be closed following the Hurricane, and customers should plan ahead for their gas needs. “If the store does not have power, it will be closed,” Scott Hartman, Rutter’s president and CEO told the York Daily Record on Monday before Sandy hit. “We do not have backup generators,” he added.
Closing stores, he noted also limits spoilage of perishable inventory in the event of an outage, whereas allowing customers to open and close the refrigerator doors would cause items like milk to get warmer and spoil faster.
Royal Farms said it was treating the hurricane “like a snowstorm-type situation,” according to Rob Rinehart, director of gasoline trading.
Early preparations included removing a large inflatable chicken from the chain’s new store at Route 30 and Roosevelt Avenue in York, Pa. “We’re hoping most people filled up their tanks up already,” he told the York Daily Record before the storm hit on Monday. “Our sales have been huge. Fuel delivery has had a hard time keeping up with supply.”
Royal Farms also planned to close any of its four York County stores if they lost power. “Everything’s so computerized and electronic these days,” he said. “If you don’t have power, there’s next to no way to handle the business.”