H-E-B, Walmart closing dozens of Texas stores as Hurricane Harvey nears landfall

Dozens of H-E-B and Walmart stores in the path of Hurricane Harvey have closed as the companies work to keep vital supplies like water and fresh food on store shelves in San Antonio and Houston.

H-E-B has closed at least 25 stores in the Gulf Coast region and around the Houston area while Walmart had shuttered 15 stores as of Friday afternoon. No store closures are currently expected for San Antonio and Austin, the companies said Friday

H-E-B has suspended shipments of goods into areas heavily impacted by the oncoming storm and closed stores in Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass and Victoria among other areas to ensure employees’ safety, company spokeswoman Dya Campos said.

The San Antonio supermarket chain plans to send about 15 of its mobile emergency response units — which include mobile kitchens and mobile pharmacies along with electrical generators and water tankers — sometime this weekend when the storm dissipates, the company said. More than 100 H-E-B employees are expected to volunteer with the company’s mobile kitchens and direct response units.

Walmart has closed stores in Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, Rockport, Kingsville, Edna and Portland resulting from mandatory evacuations or power losses in those areas, spokesman Reagan Dickens said.

Retailers are on high alert as Hurricane Harvey makes landfall, determining where to send additional shipments of bottled water, ready-made food items, batteries and flashlights to keep shelves stocked and whether to close stores to keep employees safe.

Photos of empty shelves, especially on bottled water aisles, and long lines at area grocery stores flooded social media timelines on Facebook and Twitter Thursday and Friday.

Campos said H-E-B is diverting some inventory from closed stores to stores that remain open but that the supermarket chain’s stores are receiving deliveries.

“We are replenishing that product as fast as we can,” Campos said.

Walmart’s emergency operation center in Bentonville, Arkansas is “speaking frequently” with store operations teams in Texas to gauge where to ship additional stock of water, fuel containers and other supplies to the company’s stores in Texas and Louisiana, Dickens said.

“You’re working with traffic, you’re working with weather,” Dickens said. “You’re working with high winds, high waters. The timelines (to restock) are a little more difficult to predict.”

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