As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the coast, brands and agencies located near the Category 4 storm's expected path are in prep mode. By midday Wednesday, Florence was moving toward Wilmington, North Carolina, and expected to produce tropical-storm-force winds and torrential flooding on Thursday.
Lowe's has so far closed 15 stores, most of them on the North Carolina coast, according to a company spokeswoman. While the Mooresville, North Carolina-based retailer's corporate headquarters is not in Florence's path, many of its stores and customers are.
The home improvement chain activated its Emergency Command Center over the weekend in preparation for Florence, the spokeswoman says. The Center, staffed by roughly two-dozen employees, monitors the storm and communicates with stores to find out what products customers need for preparation and recovery efforts. Earlier in the week, customers were looking for prep products including bottled water, generators and plywood, but now Lowe's is stocking "recovery" products like bleach, gloves, buckets, storage totes, mops and brooms.
"Stores will be looking to stock products customers will need for cleanup phase," says the spokeswoman.
Lowe's also froze prices on Monday. During the storm, it will deploy additional employees from other areas not affected by the weather to those in Florence's path. The chain currently has 100 storm team relief members ready for deployment; last year, following Hurricane Harvey, Lowe's deployed 1,100 staffers.
McKinney, which has an office in Durham, North Carolina, approximately 140 miles away from the coastline, always takes a proactive approach to storms, a spokeswoman says, noting that this year is no different. All employees in the Durham office will work from home on Thursday and Friday, she says, plus the agency has created a Slack channel, dubbed "Emergency-Alerts," and implemented an "Emergency Texts" channel for office communication.
Winston-Salem-based shop The Variable met Monday to strategize for when the bad weather hits, according to President and Partner David Mullen. The agency is preparing to shut down its office mid-morning Thursday, and employees will work from home through the weekend and longer if need be, keeping clients in the loop about their work and availability. Mullen also says the company will prepare its offices as well as it can, sealing off entrances and doors. unplugging electronics in case of power surges, and moving low-lying files in case of flooding.
BFG, a creative agency headquartered in Bluffton, South Carolina, near Hilton Head Island, officially closed its office on Tuesday, but about 25 percent of the roughly 125 people who work there still came in, says CEO Kevin Meany. Everyone else is working from home. "We're in a little bit of a holding pattern," he says, but "it's easy enough to stay in touch with email."
MillerCoors, which operates a brewery about 200 miles northwest of Virginia Beach in Elkton, Virginia, will "continue to monitor the storm and risk, and take appropriate action, up to and including shutting down the brewery, if needed," a spokesman said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to activate its disaster relief program that distributes drinking water in beer cans to affected areas.
The storm is also affecting the sports world. Several college football games scheduled for Saturday were cancelled, including North Carolina State-West Virginia, North Carolina University-University of Central Florida and Virginia Tech-East Carolina.
Other marketers headquartered near Florence, including Bank of America, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and HanesBrands, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are closely monitoring the storm and keeping in close contact with employees, spokespeople say.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that McKinney's Durham, North Carolina office is approximately 300 miles away from the coast; it is in fact 140 miles away.
Contributing: Megan Graham, E.J. Schultz