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US companies hustle to restaff, reopen after Sandy

NEW YORK/CHICAGO--After Hurricane Sandy bashed the East Coast with wind, flooding and a blizzard, companies scrambled on Tuesday to assess the damage, figure out how to get staff back on the job, and get customers what they needed from fresh water to roofing supplies, Wi-Fi and power for laptops.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, retailers in particular hurried to get back to business.

At Home Depot, one of the biggest challenges during the height of the storm was constantly rerouting trucks filled with supplies as local officials ordered roads closed, said Doug Spiron, Emergency Response Captain at the No. 1 home improvement chain's command center.

A total of 441 stores faced at least tropical storm strength winds during the storm, with 18 facing hurricane force winds. At the peak on Monday, 44 Home Depot stores were closed.

“The biggest challenge that we faced was the sheer size of this,” Spiron said.

One new strategy that helped Home Depot move goods to stores quickly was paying drivers to stay with trucks at distribution centers during the storm so they could immediately begin deliveries when the storm passed, Spiron said. By late Tuesday afternoon, the number of Home Depot stores closed had dropped to 11.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had 267 stores closed as of late Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon that was down to 80 stores in 10 states.

The world's largest retailer said none of its facilities had been seriously damaged, and there was no disruption to holiday planning.

Luxury department store Saks Inc. said on Tuesday that it had reopened three stores in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The retailer's flagship store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, which generates about 20 percent of the company's sales, and five other stores in New Jersey and Connecticut were due to reopen on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Julia Bentley.

Macy's Inc said its Herald Square flagship store in Manhattan and others in the city and in parts of New Jersey were closed on Tuesday.

“The determining factor is if the store and shopping center have electricity, and if associates are able to get to work,” Macy's spokesman Jim Sluzewski said, adding that the company had 195 stores closed all or part of the day on Monday, about a quarter of its locations.

Desperately Seeking Coffee

New Yorkers searching for a cup of coffee had more luck with small chains or delicatessens and, in some cases, Dunkin' Donuts than Starbucks.

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Sharon Karr leaves Home Depot with water for FEMA workers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Plainview, New York, Tuesday, Oct. 30.

(AFP)

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