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Industry Holds Its Breath as Hurricane Florence Hits the Carolinas

While the full impact was yet to be felt, Hurricane Florence’s tack to the south and slightly diminished severity likely limited the storm’s impact on some of North Carolina’s textile mills and apparel factories.

The worst of the Category 1 storm, according to reports, was felt along the coast as Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday morning and headed toward South Carolina, where facilities could still feel its effects. North and South Carolina declared states of emergency to allow emergency vehicles and personnel clear passage. Businesses were dealing with major power outages and floods.

Walmart said due to Hurricane Florence’s impact on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, some Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club facilities will close or adjust hours of operation.

FedEx said, “We have contingency plans in place to help lessen the storm’s impact on facilities and service. FedEx is also assisting in the delivery of important relief and medical supplies working with Direct Relief, American Red Cross, Team Rubicon, Heart to Heart International, International Medical Corps and ASPCA.”

A spokeswoman for yarn manufacturer Unifi Inc. said, “Since the storm has stayed off the original path and taken a turn south, we anticipate this to be a heavy rain event, but hopefully nothing else.”

She said Unifi’s operations are farther inland in North Carolina and not near the coast. The company is headquartered in Greensboro, with facilities in Reidsville, Yadkinville and Madison, all in the northern part of the state.

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A spokesman for National Spinning, based in Whiteville closer to the coast, said Friday morning that none of the company’s operations–it also has plants in Washington farther north and Maiden in the western area of the state–had been affected “yet.”

Donald F. Yando, Atlanta director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said, “CBP personnel from around the nation are being called in to action to help those impacted by Florence. As in previous natural disasters, Atlanta CBP officer’s emergency response is conducted in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Response Framework.”

He said CBP’s highest priorities following the hurricane making landfall are life-saving and live-sustaining activities to include the safe evacuation of people leaving the impacted areas, the maintenance of public order, prevention of the loss of property to the extent possible and the speedy recovery of the region.

Concerns remained over the flooding of cotton fields and loss of crops in the Carolinas. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “Our farmers and ranchers take financial risks every year to help feed and clothe the U.S. and the world, and a hurricane makes their situations even more perilous. At USDA, it’s our job to be there for them when they need help. All of our relevant agencies are ready to assist when natural disasters strike.”

A report from IHS Markit economists said, “While it’s too soon to gauge the impact on GDP from Hurricane Florence, past experience suggests only a modest hit to third-quarter GDP growth and a modest boost to fourth-quarter growth. Hurricanes, while having a devastating impact in directly affected areas, also give rise to activity that otherwise would not take place. Prime examples include preparation, travel and lodging associated with evacuation, and recovery.”

IHS said another possible offset is “geographically re-sourced activity,” meaning “with a few days of notice, business can re-source activity away from potentially affected areas to businesses in other areas that can pick up the slack.”

Relief efforts have already begun to assist those potentially displaced, as many areas have instituted mandatory or voluntary evacuations. Nonprofit Soles4Souls is requesting and collecting new donated shoes and apparel to prepare a response effort to help those affected by Hurricane Florence.

The group said it’s seeking donated product from retailers and manufacturers to distribute in the affected areas. Requests include athletic shoes, work-appropriate footwear for both men and women, as well as apparel.

Two Ten Footwear Foundation has sent out email and social media alerts to all employees located in the target area, to the footwear and retail companies they work for, and to industry organizations. Donations can be made to the Two Ten Natural Disaster Relief fund or through its website.