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CARY, N.C. -- East Coast residents got a jolt this week after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck Virginia, sending shockwaves from the Carolinas to New England. But an even bigger display of Mother Nature's power is keeping residents and business owners glued to their televisions: Hurricane Irene.
As of this afternoon, the hurricane was taking aim at the Bahamas as a Category 3 storm. With no mountains to dull its force, and open water between the island chain and the United States, some weather experts are predicting the storm could increase in intensity to a Category 4 by the time it makes landfall in this country.
For now, projections point to the Carolinas as the sweet spot. As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, NOAA's National Hurricane Center placed Hurricane Irene 955 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C. and moving to the west-northwest at 9 miles per hour.
It's just one more natural disaster that convenience store operators have to contend with this year -- after digging out from record snowfalls in January and February, and rebuilding after tornados paved a path of devastation through the South this spring.
A spokeswoman for The Pantry Inc. told CSNews Online this morning that executives of the company -- one of the most notable c-store chains in the Southeast and based in Cary, N.C. -- were set to meet this afternoon to discuss hurricane preparations.
In addition, VPS Convenience Store Group posted a disaster supply checklist on its website. The list includes items such as water, ice, pet food, candles, batteries and cash. The company operates 419 stores throughout the Southeast and Midwest under the names Scotchman, Village Pantry, Young’s, Li’l Cricket and Next Door Stores, as well as two truck stop travel plazas.
Other retailers are hoping to miss the brunt of Hurricane Irene due to location. While The Spinx Co. operates approximately 65 stores in South and North Carolina, a company spokeswoman said its stores are inland and not expected to take a direct hit. Spinx is still keeping an eye on the storm for any effect it may have on fuel supply.
And it's not just c-stores in the Carolinas that are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Hurricane Irene is expected to follow a path up the East Coast, and depending on its movement to the east or west, could head straight for New York. This possibility has prompted the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) to post a bulletin on its website advising retailers to think ahead.
"The National Weather Service is forecasting that Hurricane Irene will impact the Northeast this weekend, including parts of eastern New York," a message on the site states. "Now is the time to prepare for how to remain in business -- and keep your employees and customers safe -- should electric, communications and transportation systems [be] disrupted."
NYACS also has a link to a message from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency's preparation tips, including know your evacuation routes, can be found at www.ready.gov and www.listo.gov. In addition to the websites, FEMA's Ready Campaign's toll-free numbers are 800-BE-READY and 888-SE-LISTO. Both provide free emergency preparedness information and resources available in English and Spanish.