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WAWA, Pa. -- The second major snowstorm barreled into the East Coast and mid-Atlantic yesterday, shuttering schools, businesses and government offices in what was predicted to total up to 18 inches of snow, following a weekend storm that dropped more than two feet in some areas. But for those people who needed life's necessities -- or a hot cup of coffee -- the Wawa chain of convenience stores were mostly open to serve them.
Fewer than 20 of Wawa's 572 stores across five states had unscheduled closings due to the weekend storm, the company told the Philadelphia Inquirer, with one-third of the closings due to power outages.
Wawa corporate office is continuously refining its approach to staying open, Sal Mattera, Wawa's crisis director, said in the report. A closing happens when the general manager and the local area manager of a store believe staff members will be unable to make it into a store safely.
"We will never put people at risk," Mattera said.
Pressure to stay open is high, he said, because so many people refuse to allow even record amounts of snow to keep them off the road:
"Our customers are much more mobile today."
Making sure staff gets to work safely and products are available requires some advance planning.
"If I'm on, I'm worried about who's going to be in," Roberta McAndrew Miller, general manager of a Wawa in Broomall, Pa., told the paper. "If they can't make it in, I will go and get them."
McAndrew Miller had plans to pick up an employee yesterday who typically rides the bus to work and was worried about whether or not the service would be running. Other employees made plans to spend the night at a coworker's house nearby, so they could be sure to make it to work.
To keep stores stocked, Wawa counts on its dairy for milk and other beverages, McAndrew Miller said: "They send them out early, they send them out late. They always get here."
Other vendors drop off extra supplies ahead of time, or make a delivery on a day off.
For example, earlier this week, "the bread guys came on Sunday. They knew we were going to be out," McAndrew Miller said in the report.
To make sure store lots are clear for customers, Wawa uses a network of plowing, Mattera said. Plow trucks are required to show up as soon as two or three inches accumulate, or if ice forms. Each truck is assigned four or five stores.
"They do the loop," Mattera said. "They have backup staff when they hit a certain number of hours."
Meanwhile, the double-whammy snowfalls are causing some gas retailers in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regions to run out of fuel as delivery trucks are unable to make it to stores.
"[Plows] don't leave a wide enough space for trucks to get in. They just plow for the cars," Al Blake of Fleet Transit, told News8.net. "[Fillers have] frozen ice in between, and it's really hard to get them up."
At Chesapeake Exxon in Annapolis, Md., cashier Nina Wooten told AOL News: "We've closed up shop more this year than we ever have in past years" because the station couldn't get restocked with gas.
The situation was frustrating for drivers looking to stock up on fuel ahead of the mid-week storm.
"I stopped on Joppa Road which is out of gas and now I'm here and there's no gas," Kristy King, whose gas indicator light was illuminated in her car, told area television station ABC2News.com.
"Right now I'm running on fumes and I need to find gas but apparently Texaco does not have any," added driver Mike Deal.
Officials at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency told the station as of Tuesday, gasoline shortages do not appear to be wide-spread, but they are monitoring the situation.
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