Chattanooga businesses brace for superstorm Sandy

Chattanooga businesses brace for superstorm Sandy

October 30th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Superstorm Sandy

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga area businesses today and Monday grappled with dangerous Hurricane Sandy, shutting offices, rerouting trucks and bracing for the superstorm's fallout.

Unum closed key branches in Worcester, Mass., and Portland, Maine, on Monday and were to decide whether to shut them for a second day today, said company spokeswoman M.C. Guenther.

She said the Chattanooga-based insurer also shuttered six field offices in the Northeast on Monday from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The New York office at the least was to be closed today.

"That region will be paralyzed by the affects of the storm," Guenther said. She added that customers shouldn't see any disruption, however, as work is shifted to other offices.

Chattanooga trucking companies were moving equipment and telling drivers to brace for the bad weather.

Eric Fuller, U.S. Xpress' chief operating officer, said over 1,000 of its tractors likely are affected by Sandy.

"Twenty percent of our operation is located in that area," he said. "We've been moving trucks up to 100 miles inland."

Doug Cook, vice president of safety for trucker Covenant Transport, said the company has pulled back equipment to the fringes of the giant storm.

"We're not sending them into a disaster area," he said.

Both officials said their companies did a lot of preplanning.

"I spent all weekend moving trailers away from the coastal area," Fuller said. "We've communicated with the drivers -- if you don't feel safe then shut down."

Cook said it's keeping its drivers abreast of conditions via its satellite communications. He said Covenant warned drivers to fill up with fuel and carry extra food and water.

Chattanooga Airport had a nonstop flight to Washington, D.C., canceled Monday while passengers connecting in Atlanta and other gateways were forced to change plans.

According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware, more than 7,600 flights already had been canceled for Sunday and Monday.

Chattanooga Airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold said it wasn't known if the flight to Washington would run today.

From the American Red Cross' East Tennessee Region, 26 people have volunteered to help in the storm stricken area. From Chattanooga, two people already have deployed and three were on standby awaiting a flight as of late Monday.

In Georgia, state transportation officials are making exceptions to size and weight limits for trucks so extra heavy loads of equipment can be shipped to states affected to Hurricane Sandy.

Retailers like Home Depot and Walmart have large distribution facilities in the state. State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jill Goldberg says lifting the weight limits allows trucks to carry heavy loads of generators and other equipment to states farther north.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.