Most food retailers rebounded quickly last week from Hurricane Irene after it tore up the Eastern Seaboard, flooding towns from North Carolina to Vermont and taking more than 40 lives.
Hundreds of supermarkets were forced to close for some period of time during the storm, either because of evacuations or safety reasons as the storm approached, or because of power outages, structural damage or flooding after the storm had passed. By the middle of last week, however, most of the largest operators in the region said their stores were back in operation, with some relying on generator power.
Even a Hannaford Bros. store in Burlington, Vt., that looked in local press reports like a sinking ship in a vast lake of floodwater was cleaned up and restocked after an around-the-clock effort.
“It was an incredible, incredible accomplishment to get that store reopened in basically two days,” said Mike Norton, a spokesman for the Delhaize America-owned chain.
All other locations of the Scarborough, Maine-based banner were able reopen almost immediately after the storm, he said, although supplying them on the Northeast's washed-out road system did force some creative routing of delivery trucks.
At sister chain Food Lion, based in Salisbury, N.C., about 350 stores were closed for some period time during the hurricane, but the company had 300 of those up and running again within a day or two, and nearly all the stores had been reopened by the middle of last week.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores said it received “no reports of significant damage” at any of its 600 facilities in the hurricane's path. At the peak of the storm's impact, 298 Walmart and Sam's Clubs were closed due to the hurricane, the retailer said. All but about 30 of those were reopened within two days of the storm.
As of Thursday of last week, all ShopRite and PriceRite stores had reopened, a spokeswoman for Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp. told SN, although some were still operating on generator power as blackouts were expected to extend into this week.
One Shaw's store in Ludlow, Vt., was closed last week due to flooding, although all other Supervalu stores along the East Coast — including Shoppers Warehouse locations in Maryland and Farm Fresh locations in Virginia Beach, Va., had reopened by early last week.
Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper Supermarkets said it was attempting to restock stores after the storm but was having trouble getting deliveries to some stores in Vermont and parts of upstate New York.
Retailers used social media networks before, during and after the storm to advise of store closings and provide information about water and ice distribution.
Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y Foods closed some stores due to power outages, but posted on its Facebook page a link to recipes that could be prepared without gas or electricity for customers without power.