The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


October 29, 2012

Public stocks up on water, D batteries

SUNBURY — How much bottled water can a grocery store sell in 48 hours?

“A lot,” said Dennis Curtin, spokesman for Weis Markets.

Water by the gallon and D batteries have been the most in-demand items over the last few days of hurricane preparation, with milk following a close third.

Just on Saturday, the Sunbury-based grocery chain shipped 2.2 million pounds of goods, double its usual shipment plus another 50 percent, to 123 stores throughout Pennsylvania. On Sunday, it trucked out another 2 million pounds.

“Since Friday, we sent out about 50 extra trailer loads of bottled water,” Curtain said of Weis, which scheduled extra shipments of water, milk and bread to its stores and brought in additional cashiers and stock personnel to meet increased demand.

Weis has its own dairy and water products and also is working with local vendors of water and dairy to step up supply, as well as with Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola Co. for more of their respective water brands.

“With all of those sources, we’ve been able to keep up with demand,” Curtin said. “Occasionally, customers may not see an item there, but in a couple hours, we are restocked. (The employees) have doing a wonderful job keeping up.”

Weis has been monitoring the weather surrounding Hurricane Sandy since reports started a week ago, Curtin said. On Monday morning, demand was running relatively low compared to what the grocer had seen over the weekend, he said, “but we expect it to gin up again as the day goes on.”

Weis’ 1.1 million square-foot distribution center in Milton, which has more than 200 tractors and 400 trailers including refrigeration units, has been working around the clock to get out the shipments, he said.

Water, ice, bread, milk and batteries have been the items of choice at Giant-Martin’s markets, which also have seen a steady flow of customers over the last few days, said Christopher Brand, spokesman for the Carlisle-based chain.

The weekend was the big push for Giant-Martin’s nearly 200 stores, most of which are in Pennsylvania, he said. Giant met demand thanks in part to its recently expanded product distribution center. “We staged storm pallets,” Brand said, referring to pre-wrapped shipments of at least 100 varieties of nonperishable goods.

Giant also has a “storm team,” Brand said, which has been talking two to three times daily through conference calls since the forecasts began. The storm was hitting its Virginia stores Sunday.

Giant’s next move is preparing for high winds, Brand said.  Merchandise staged outside is coming indoors, carts are getting secured and drainage systems on roofs and parking lots are double checked.

The chain also is keeping a close eye on its trucks, Brand said. The National Weather Service was predicting gusts up to 50 mph throughout Pennsylvania, and the state Department of Tranportation already has reduced speed on major interstates to 45 mph.

“It’s safety first for our drivers and customers,” Brand said. “It’s been a real balancing act, and we’re staying close to the weather to ensure everyone is safe.”

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