By Kelsie West
How many boxes of Pop-Tarts have you stocked up on in preparation for Hurricane Florence? This week hundreds have flocked to the local Lexington Walmart Supercenter to purchase nonperishable foods and other necessities to prepare for a storm that is supposed to bring 18 inches of rainfall and 40 mile an hour winds.
Two weeks prior to the hurricane, Walmart employees prepared shelves to accommodate items necessary for power outages, excessive flooding, and damaging winds. Walmart collects data from past disasters to determine the most useful products to stock during a hurricane.
“We didn’t know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate”
Linda N. Dillman, Walmart’s former chief information officer told The New York Times in a 2004 article about data collections that “We didn’t know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane.” As a result, many Walmart stores in the eastern United States stock extra Pop-Tarts prior to a hurricane.
The same phenomenon is seen at Southern Virginia University. While reminding her women’s choir class to prepare for the storm, Professor Mackenzie Romriell said, “Make sure you have food. I grabbed cheetos and Pop-Tarts!” Going through food preparations, Troy Owens, ’21, said, “I grabbed the extra large size box of Pop-Tarts for the hurricane, but I think I’m going to eat some now.”
Even though Pop-Tarts are statistically shown to be a hurricane food favorite, Walmart in Lexington specifically re-stocks water, bread, milk, and eggs. “Just yesterday we stocked bread twice and sold out on water,” said Brandon Swinson, a self checkout host at the Walmart Supercenter.
Two to three times during the week of the hurricane, Walmart employees stock shelves with in-demand items, such as nonperishable foods, pet food and Gatorade. Commonly locals also purchase generators and flashlights. Unused generators bought in anticipation of power outages usually get returned after the storm has passed.
As of late, weather forecasts show that the storm has shifted to take a southern route after it makes landfall, and will largely affect southern and eastern regions. Communities of the Blue Ridge Mountains still expect heavy rainfall, but the hurricane’s effects may be delayed and not as severe. The storm will likely reach Buena Vista and surrounding towns later this weekend and early next week.
“The streets may not be flooded, but Walmart is with customers”
The storm’s change in direction means that everyone’s preparation and Walmart purchases may be in vain. One thing is for sure, Swinson said, “The streets may not be flooded, but Walmart is with customers.”