Most Houston Businesses Closed as Harvey's Rains Continue

Most major businesses in and around Houston were closed on Monday, with many telling employees to stay home as they waited for floodwaters to recede and started collecting funds for disaster relief organizations.

Many area hospitals remained open but some were evacuating patients due to flood damage. Other big employers, including energy giants like ConocoPhillips, NASA's Johnson Space Center, and Waste Management Inc., were closed for the day. The city's biggest malls were shut, as were many area grocers, retailers and restaurants.

The Johnson Space Center, which employs more than 10,000 people, asked employees except "mission essential personnel" to stay home Monday unless otherwise instructed. Senior management will reassess opening on a day-to-day basis, the center said in a news release.

Several companies, including ConocoPhillips and BMC Software Inc., said their offices planned to reopen as soon as Wednesday, weather permitting. BMC, which employs about 900 people in the Houston area, has encouraged area employees who are safe and able to work to work remotely, said Chief Executive Peter Leav in a statement.

Waste Management, which has about 1,000 corporate staff at its Houston headquarters, instructed those employees to work from home. The country's largest trash hauler had canceled Monday rubbish removal for customers in several cities and nearby areas, including Houston, the Woodlands, Jacinto City and Galveston, according to its website.

The company reopened three out of six landfills in the Houston area Monday morning, but later closed them again. "Getting to them is next to impossible," said Toni Beck, vice president of corporate communications.

Kroger Co. closed all but a handful of its 115 Houston-area stores for 24 hours as Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall, and 65 remained closed Monday. Kroger's main distribution center in the area was closed, and the nation's largest grocer was pulling products from a Dallas warehouse instead.

"It's a logistical nightmare there," a Kroger spokeswoman said.

HEB Grocery Co., a San Antonio-based grocery chain, said around 40 of its 100 Houston-area stores remain closed and many others were operating with limited hours. The company has a mobile kitchen that was expected to provide more than 8,000 meals by the end of Monday, and a convoy of 15 vehicles was delivering supplies to impacted areas.

Group 1 Automotive Inc., which owns around 20 car dealerships in the Houston area and whose corporate headquarters are also in the city, said it doesn't have immediate plans for reopening its locations. "Once we can get a firm understanding of how everyone's well-being is, then we will assess operations," said Pete DeLongchamps, a vice president.

The company, which also has dealerships in New Orleans, "went through something similar but not on this scale with Katrina," said Mr. DeLongchamps.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it had closed 96 stores and distribution centers in the area hit by the hurricane on Monday, up from 40 on Saturday. Wal-Mart had sent over 1,000 semi-trucks full of emergency supplies to stores in the region as of Monday, a spokesman said. "We are delaying the watermelon deliveries and speeding up the battery and bottled water deliveries," he said on Saturday.

Target Corp. said on Monday that it closed more than 30 stores in the area and would reopen them when it was safe for employees and shoppers. It is holding some supplies at distribution centers until it can deliver them when roads clear. Target also said it would donate $500,000 to the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations.

Lowe's Cos. started reopening some of its Texas stores Monday, although 26 remained closed. Ahead of the storm, Lowe's sent extra shipments of bottled water, trash bags, generators and other products people would need in a power outage, said Rick Neudorff, emergency command center operations manager for Lowe's. One Lowe's store in Aransas Pass sustained severe flooding damage, but others thus far have a small amount of water inside and should be able to open quickly, he said.

At Shipley Do-Nuts's warehouse in Houston, eight employees out of 40 made it to work on Monday, said project manager John Mayes. The rest of the warehouse staff -- along with the employees of the approximately 80 Shipley locations throughout the Houston area -- were stranded at home, although all have been accounted for.

Mr. Mayes lives 4 miles away from the warehouse, and it took him 30 minutes to drive to work this morning in his truck on a route that ordinarily takes him five minutes. "We're sticking together," Mr. Mayes said. He expects that most of the Houston stores will be open by the end of the week. The company has about 315 locations total.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has two breweries and a bottle-making facility in Houston. All of the company's 1,100 employees there were safe and the facilities undamaged, a spokeswoman said. The smaller brewery was closed and the larger one stopped production over the weekend as it ran out of packaging materials.

Since Friday, AB InBev in partnership with the Red Cross has delivered three truckloads of emergency canned water to the Houston area produced at its brewery in Cartersville, Ga.

Landry's Inc., which operates about 80 restaurants in the Houston area, plans on reopening around 77 locations by Friday, weather permitting. Only three of its locations experienced flooding, according to Chief Financial Officer Rick Liem. A few locations are currently open and serving limited menus. "We have employees who want to make money," said Mr. Liem.

--Heather Haddon, Jennifer Maloney, Daniela Hernandez and Sarah Nassauer contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 28, 2017 17:16 ET (21:16 GMT)