Florence flooded five Martin Marietta quarries and disrupted other NC companies

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Billions of gallons of water have flooded five of Martin Marietta’s quarries in Eastern North Carolina, by far the worst flooding the company has experienced in the past two decades of major hurricanes, said eastern district general manager Buzz Crosby.

“The Castle Hayne quarry is basically part of the Cape Fear River system now,” Crosby said.

Headquartered in Raleigh, Martin Marietta produces stone and aggregate materials used to build roads.

There are 16 Martin Marietta sites between Chapel Hill and the coast and every one was impacted in some way by Hurricane Florence, Crosby said. For those in the Triangle it was mainly short-term loss of power. For some in the east, it’s been widespread and ongoing flooding. With some rivers not cresting until later this week, Crosby said it’s unclear how long operations will be down at the flooded sites.

Crosby said company engineers estimate 8 billion gallons of water now fills in Martin Marietta’s Castle Hayne quarry, which sits near the banks of the Cape Fear River just north of Wilmington. Two others have 2 to 3 billion gallons of water in them, Crosby said. During Hurricane Matthew, only one site saw major flooding, the Benson quarry, which filled with less than a billion gallons of water.

Castle Hayne also flooded during Hurricane Floyd, but not being nearly as deep in 1999 as in 2018, it saw much less water.

“Several facilities are down and we’re not able to produce materials and not able to ship from them,” Crosby said, noting some shipments have been shifted to alternative sites.

Crosby said the company’s primary focus is ensuring the safe return of employees, many of whom had to evacuate the path of Hurricane Florence. He said five employees and their families have been displaced from their homes due to flooding and fire.

“It’s a dynamic situation,” Crosby said.

Martin Marietta is also likely to play a roll in the state’s recovery from Hurricane Florence. Crosby said rebuilding roads from Hurricane Matthew took as much as 18 months, finishing up just a few months before Florence. He expects a similar timeline this time and said the company has already fielded N.C. Department of Transportation emails about supply capacity.

“The state has been quick acting; we’ve been receiving emails from DOT since Friday while the storm was still going on,” Crosby said.

Your Thanksgiving turkey is safe

Martin Marietta isn’t the only large North Carolina company affected by Florence.

Butterball, which is based in Garner and has multiple facilities throughout southeastern North Carolina, has halted its operations there temporarily, the company said.

“Many of our North Carolina-based processing plants, hatcheries and feed mills have been impacted by the storm, and we continue to see flooding and power outages throughout the region,” according to a statement from Butterball. “This has impacted much of our North Carolina operations. We began preparations for this storm last week and enacted our detailed hurricane preparedness checklist to ensure operations run as smoothly as possible.”

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The company said it didn’t expect its losses from Florence to be significant because of those preparations.

Nor should this lead to any pre-Thanksgiving turkey shortage, as Butterball points out those birds come from the Midwest. The company said its North Carolina operations process ground turkey, turkey bacon and turkey breasts.

Pharmaceutical impacts

Wilmington-based PPD closed its headquarters ahead of the storm. The company does clinical testing of medicines for pharmaceutical companies. Director of communications Ned Glascock said the office remains closed, but that its 1,500 employees in Wilmington are working remotely, and called productivity “uninterrupted.” PPD has about 20,000 employees worldwide, including 2,000 in Morrisville.

“We are supporting employees impacted by the storm and will continue to do so as recovery efforts escalate,” Glascock said in an email.

Glascock said there was no structural damage to the Wilmington office, but that cosmetic repairs are underway. There is no date for when employees can return to the office, he said.

In Kinston, West Pharmaceuticals closed its injection device manufacturing facility ahead of Hurricane Florence, as it did two years ago during Hurricane Matthew. Emily Denney, a company spokesperson, said the plant was closed Thursday and Friday and reopened at limited capacity Monday. The Neuse River crested Tuesday in Kinston, and Denney said there shouldn’t be long-term disruptions at the facility.

Two years ago, West closed the plant for two days, then reopened, but was forced to close again as flooding continued.

Retail takes a hit

As the water crests and falls throughout the flooded parts of North Carolina, the big box stores will play a role in the recovery, from chainsaw to gallons of milk.

Walmart has 38 superstores, Sam’s Clubs and Neighborhood Market locations throughout what it calls the affected zone in North Carolina, stretching from Apex to Wilmington. Of those, four are closed while 11 others are closed but being prepped to reopen. All in-store pharmacies remain closed.

Even among stores that are open, many of the major highways and interstates the company uses as restocking routes are either totally flooded or cut off by certain roads. A Walmart spokesman said disaster distribution centers are set up in affected areas, but that it will still be a while before everything is operating normally.

“First and foremost, the safety of our associates is what is most important to Walmart,” a spokesman said. “It may be some time before everything comes back on line. We’re still recovering and assessing … There are emergency support teams that are deployed during critical events. We’re working to ensure we have all the critical supplies and products customers need in the stores, such as water and generators.”

Through a donation match program, the company is contributing $5 million to the Florence recovery.

Similarly, home improvement company Lowe’s will likely factor in the recovery of families affected by the storm. The Mooresville company still has two stores closed as of Tuesday evening, one in Morehead City and Jacksonville. Company spokesman Steve Salazar said typical routes had been damaged or closed, but that alternatives had been found. So far, 3,500 truckloads of restocked products have made it to stores in the path of Florence.