Originally created 09/15/99

Local businesses are keeping an eye on Floyd



Like the rest of the Southeast, Augusta's business and industry leaders are keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Floyd.

They're readying their stores, plants and factories in the event the hurricane's wrath makes its way this far inland. And if necessary, they're ready to shut things down and send their people home.

"Our people are worth more than our cups," said Brett McGuire, manager of the Sweetheart Cup Co. factory in Augusta.

He and several of his employees spent most of Tuesday cleaning out storm drains and the large drainage canal at the rear of the complex in order to avoid creating a dam in the event of flooding.

They also secured loose material around the plant in case the coming storm brings high winds.

Workers across town at golf cart manufacturer E-Z-GO were doing much the same. Company spokesman Ron Skenes said the company is now working from its disaster contingency plan.

Shifts have been canceled when severe weather has struck the region in the past, Mr. Skenes said, but the plan calls for the entire plant to be shut down when it's determined the weather poses a safety hazard to employees.

"I can't remember a time when we had to close the whole operation down," he said.

Nearly all large industrial operations in the area keep back-up generators on standby in case of power failure. The diesel-powered units are designed to keep critical operations running until primary power can be restored.

BP Amoco Polymers Plant Manager Terri Harlan said her facility's backup generators are activated automatically as a fail-safe. However, plant officials would idle the units if the hurricane posed a threat to personnel.

"If people couldn't operate outside, we would have to shut the plant down," Mrs. Harlan said, adding that Amoco's Cooper River plant in Charleston was beginning shut-down procedures Tuesday evening.

Bank of America City President Jim Tyler, who also oversees the former NationsBank operations in Savannah and Brunswick, said he's spent most of Tuesday on conference calls with managers in those cities.

The contingency plan for Augusta's branches are the same as those along the coast, he said. Offices would be evacuated until dangerous weather passed. Officials would then reopen the branches within the next day, using power generators if necessary.

"We're looking at business interruption down there," Mr. Tyler said. "We're not really concentrating on Augusta. The impact here will mostly be a lot of rain and some winds."

Savannah River Site officials also are monitoring Floyd's approach.

"We are watching the path of the storm, and so far we're giving instructions to our facilities that they need to be securing any loose objects," said Will Callicott, a spokesman for Westinghouse Savannah River Co. Westinghouse operates the federal nuclear-weapons site for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Each SRS plant also has a checklist of emergency preparations to complete, Mr. Callicott said. Site executives will decide today whether to evacuate the trailers that serve as offices for many employees, he said.

"We are anticipating that we will see, at the least, some very high winds here," Mr. Callicott said.

Staff Writer Brandon Haddock contributed to this article.

REACH:Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.