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The slow-moving Category 3 hurricane, which already clobbered Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, began forcing evacuations in Florida on Wednesday. The governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina all declared states of emergency, warning residents to prepare for the oncoming storm. Home Depot and Lowe’s, the two largest home-improvement retailers in the U.S., have begun preparations to stock their stores with emergency supplies.
Home Depot, which has stores across the eastern seaboard, in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, activated its disaster command center on Wednesday, Home Depot spokesperson Stephen Holmes told FOXBusiness.com. The disaster command center brings supply chain, merchandising and human resources operations on the same floor. Personnel are essentially working around the clock to move products into affected areas.
Home Depot runs a Florida-based distribution center dedicated to hurricane response. The facility is stocked with generators, bottled water, tarps, batteries and flashlights, plus chainsaws and other tools. The location of the hurricane distribution center allows Home Depot to quickly move supplies around the southeast.
“Our stores will stay open as late as they safely can, and open as early as they safely can,” Holmes said.
Home Depot last activated its emergency operations during the August floods in Louisiana.
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Lowe’s also has an emergency command center in Wilkesboro, N.C., for storm preparation and response. Karen Cobb, a spokesperson for Lowe’s, said the Mooresville-based company established the command center after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
The command center is staffed 24/7 and has tracked Hurricane Matthew since it formed. Lowe’s works closely with FEMA and state offices of emergency management, Cobb added.
Lowe’s, which has 202 stores from Florida to Massachusetts, shipped extra truckloads of products to retail locations in the southeast. Water, plywood, sump pumps, generators and sandbags are in high demand. Distribution centers in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina have additional emergency supplies like shop vacs and five-gallon buckets ready to go.
Cobb said the safety of Lowe’s employees and customers is the company’s main focus, and stores will follow guidance regarding evacuations and curfews.
All Home Depot and Lowe’s stores have backup generators, allowing the stores to open as soon as possible during power outages.