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When businesses took on water at Juban Crossing in Denham Springs during the 2016 flood, Rouses Supermarket was among the stores hit. The supermarket re-opened several months later. The company was preparing for Tropical Story Barry with sandbags, and has taken other precautions since 2016 at its other stores across south Louisiana.

Rouses Supermarket had the unexpected happen in August 2016 when its Denham Springs store in Juban Crossing took on several feet of water — it was the sort of flood that a few dozen sandbags would have a hard time keeping at bay. 

It took several months of restoration before the store reopened in late 2016.

In preparation for Tropical Storm Barry, the Schriever-based grocery chain is doubling down on precautions by stocking sandbags, alternative power sources and extra food. Others are taking similar precautions with lessons learned from 2016.

[Update, 10 a.m. Saturday: Barry has been upgraded to a hurricane.]

"We've been very busy. There are now generators at 90 percent of our stores," said Donny Rouse, CEO of Rouses Supermarket. "We're just waiting now with sandbags on hand."

One Rouses location in New Orleans had some minor flooding already this week but that has since reopened. Rouses has been stocking up on food staples from suppliers in recent days and has gotten several extra shipments to meet demand as shoppers flocked to stores in preparation for the storm.

"In the last two days, we've sold a weeks worth of bread," Rouse said. "We always try to stay open as late as we can; you never know what is going to happen."

The company has several different contingency plans it can implement if the storm conditions worsen, the executive said.

Likewise, Capitol City Produce leaders are cautiously optimistic but still planning for the worst. The food distributor had about a foot of water seep into a Baton Rouge office building and warehouse in August 2016. The damage forced the company to discard about 85 percent of the product inside. The business even lost a delivery truck when it was flooded out. 

Darin Arceneaux, chief operating officer for Capitol City Produce, said the company has seen fairly normal operations so far and expects to have some deliveries on Saturday morning. 

"We're not anticipating any flooding …," Arceneaux said. "Our properties are in good shape."

Capitol City Produce does plan to stop deliveries in some markets such as Lafayette, Houma and Morgan City, citing high winds and flooding conditions this weekend. Many customers have ordered enough food ahead of the weekend. The company saw a 40 percent uptick in sales as businesses prepared for the storm. In an effort to keep workers safe, the company is reducing the work week slightly. 

"We did decide not to ship products on Sunday so we won't have a shift (of workers) coming in on Saturday night," Arceneaux said. 

The executive said that his advice to other businesses is to communicate frequently with customers throughout the storm. 

Some national retailers, such as Target, also saw flood damage during 2016 in Baton Rouge. And that spurred some changes at the company as it prepared for the weekend.

The Target on Millerville Road lost millions of dollars' worth of merchandise from more than two feet of water in the store in 2016. 

This week the Target location stocked up on water, receiving 22 pallets which is a full truck load, in anticipation of the storm, in addition to getting extra bread shipments. 

"We have a new alert system where we are able to text team members on a mass scale," said Fred Regalado, store director for the Millerville Road Target. "With what we went through here and after (Hurricane) Harvey (in Texas), Target has implemented a lot of great things."

The company has a command center that has been tracking the storm, with daily conference calls to keep managers up to date. It also has shipped sandbags to the store. Some employees are working overtime to stock the store and get ready for the weekend. So far, the store plans on being open this weekend but is prepared to close if necessary. 

"We learned not to take it lightly, we're over preparing," Regalado said. "The situation could change depending on whether the weather gets worse."

On its website, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber suggests businesses have a quick, safe evacuation plan; maintain a list and contact information for all employees, customers, vendors, bankers, attorneys and insurance agents; establish a means of contacting employees displaced from their homes; arrange ways for staff to contact the business or locate information about the business if it is temporarily closed or displaced; establish procedures for succession of management; identify operations critical to the company’s survival and recovery; decide which personnel and what records, procedures and equipment are necessary to keep the business operating; preserve vital business records, financial data, accounting records, personnel information, inventory information, etc.; back up computerized records and store backups, along with other vital records, off-site; plan how to continue operating if the business is inaccessible; review business insurance options, such as business interruption coverage, and ensure claims can be made in a timely manner; prepare for lengthy power interruptions; distribute to employees and partners contact information for FEMA and SBA disaster assistance.


Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.