Walmart officials said the retail giant is bracing for the effects of Hurricane Dorian as the storm threatens the southeastern U.S.
The powerful storm remained off the eastern coast of Florida on Tuesday (Sept. 3). It is expected to impact Georgia and the Carolinas later in the week.
Walmart has 565 stores and clubs that could be impacted from Dorian as it moves closer to the U.S., company officials said.
The retail giant has closed 46 stores and 519 other locations were still open. Walmart has closed stores along the eastern seaboard in Florida and southern Georgia. The retailer continues to monitor the situation and will close other stores if the storm intensifies or moves northward.
“The safety of our customers and associates is always our primary concern,” Walmart stated in an online posting that lists the store closures.
Walmart has a web portal known as OneWalmart for employees to check the status of their store hours and get updates on the potential closures and other disaster preparedness support. Walmart said updates on store hours of operation will also be given on its Facebook page.
Walmart typically likes to keep stores open as long as it is safe to give customers an opportunity to stock up on food, water, batteries and other disaster-related items. The retail giant then works closely with local and federal authorities to reopen stores as soon as ensure consumers can get the items they need.
Walmart will also typically work with local authorities to provide water and other items needed in devastated areas.
While the storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 since stalling out over the Bahamas this past weekend, early estimates for insurance losses in the U.S. could be at least $25 billion, according to USB Group. That would make Dorian the costliest natural disaster since 2017. Depending on where Dorian makes landfall in Florida, the costs could be as high as $40 million, according to UBS.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 1,500 flights in the U.S. had been canceled, according to FlightAware, an aviation data company. Amtrak also canceled some of its East Coast service. Many of Florida’s toll roads are suspended, and several ports have closed. There are 85 shelters open across Florida and another 820,000 people in Georgia and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.
The National Hurricane Center warned of a tornado risk near the east coast of Florida through Tuesday night. The risk will then shift to coastal Georgia and the coastal Carolinas on Wednesday into Thursday.
Walmart said it will be ready throughout the week to respond to the storm as necessary.