Businesses keep eyes on the weather and roads to gauge reopening
Feb 22, 2013 (The Kansas City Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The foot of snow that slammed the region Thursday brought some businesses to a rare full stop as employees and customers found it impossible to move around.
Other commerce was saved, though, by the Internet and mobile phone transactions. And, in dots of industry around the Kansas City area, some hardy workers and consumers -- particularly those with four-wheel drive vehicles -- kept the economy turning.
Countless businesses that halted operations expected to resume operations today, provided road conditions improved overnight. But getting employees and customers out of their driveways was the first priority after the snowfall.
Major shopping malls said they expected to reopen by 10 a.m. today. Banks hoped to have most branch operations up and running again by mid morning. Hotels, full with stranded people, said checkouts were likely to begin.
All said a return to normal operations depended on transportation.
The closing of Kansas City International Airport, the interruption of bus and some package delivery services, and the inability of staff members to get to work put a massive kink in business operations.
Fortunately, the heavy snow caused few power outages, so Internet transactions were able to continue. Some retailers noted a surge in online sales.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, which suspended bus service Thursday afternoon, said it expected to have regular routes running again by this morning. Riders were urged to call 816-221-0660 or go to kcata.org to check on service restoration.
The two major auto plants were expecting to rev up again later today after stopping their assembly lines because of the storm.
General Motors asked third-shift workers to return to the Fairfax plant tonight, with first- and second-shift workers to return on Saturday.
Ford Motor was to have decided at 3 a.m. if it wanted first-shift workers back on the job today. A Ford spokeswoman said the company planned to run announcements on several Kansas City radio stations early today to inform workers.
Area employers had plenty of warning that heavy snowfall was on its way, so most workplaces put some kind of emergency staffing plan in effect.
Spokeswomen for Hallmark Cards, like those at other companies, said the safety of workers came first. Most major employers around the city said they relied on communication between managers and employees to decide who needed to try to make it to work and who could work at home.
"Working remotely" was the order of the day for those who could. Some businesses had telephone hotlines for employees to check on staffing plans throughout the day.
Managers of Oak Park Mall in Overland Park and the Legends Outlets Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan., were among retail sites that made early decisions to close Thursday morning, aiming for a reopening at mid morning today.
Ward Parkway Center and Independence Center closed, although some merchants stayed open. At Ward Parkway, for example, customers in search of shovels and ice scrapers pretty much cleaned out the stock at the Target store.
Zona Rosa in the Northland stayed open because it has a mix of office and residential tenants.
UMB and Commerce banks had begun closing branches early Thursday to allow employees to get home before the snow trapped them at work. Online and mobile banking services continued undisturbed. Other services for wiring money or making commercial loans also remained open.
Similarly, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City continued to operate its cash services and call centers that provide technical support to Fed employees and banks.
USBank and other banking companies said they intended to reopen branches by mid morning today, but they cautioned that some locations might have access problems.
Because the storm was so well forecast, area hospitals were able to plan ahead of time and stock up on food and medicine to help get through until normal deliveries were expected to resume today.
Area utilities reported few outage problems because of the weather. KCP&L was able to restore a few hundred outages quickly on Thursday.
FedEx and other delivery services said they expected to resume deliveries today. Most activity had been suspended or delayed.
Scott Fiedler, spokesman for FedEx, said unsafe road conditions made the suspensions necessary. He urged people tracking packages to check the website.
The U.S. Postal Service said service on Thursday was delayed, so some mail backup might be experienced today.
For those who made it out and about Thursday, customer patience generally was required. Many restaurants closed, and those that did manage to open usually had short staffing. For many, the same situation is likely today.
A typical situation was at four of the seven area Johnny's Taverns that opened for lunch. Owners said they let employees decide whether to come in, but that meant the Shawnee restaurant operated with just one server and one cook.
"We asked people to be patient and everyone was very understanding," said Louie Riederer, managing partner.
Price Chopper stores closed early but were likely to be back to regular hours today.
Hardy souls who didn't have to go to work and were looking for entertainment were surprised to find that AMC Theatres also were closed.
The Star's Steve Everly contributed to this report.
To reach Diane Stafford, send email to email@example.com.
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