"Our Texas family of customers and associates are experiencing devastating impact from this storm," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement on Wednesday, Aug. 30. "We are on the ground to help our friends and neighbors in the Gulf region and we'll continue to be in the tough days, weeks and months ahead."
As part of the commitment, Walmart said it will match any customer donation it gets two to one of up to $10 million in cash and products to support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Product donations include necessities such as water, infant formula and personal hygiene products, plus "comfort" items for shelters, including stuffed animals, televisions and DVDs.
The remaining $10 million will be distributed to the Salvation Army, Feeding America, Convoy of Hope, Team Rubicon and the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
Many parts of Texas are still engulfed in floodwater, mainly in the Houston area, while people scramble to seek shelter and find those who are missing. On Wednesday, Harvey touched down for the second time as a tropical storm along the Louisiana-Texas border. The storm first touched down near Corpus Christi, Texas, late on Friday, Aug. 25, as a category 4 hurricane.
On Thursday, there was a chemical explosion at the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, which manufactures, among other products, organic peroxide. Residents within 1.5 miles of the plant had previously been evacuated, but one police officer nearby was rushed to the hospital.
At least 37 deaths related to Harvey have been reported in Texas so far. On Tuesday, weather forecast provider AccuWeather predicted that damages from Harvey could near $160 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Walmart executives, from its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., have been tracking the storm since it was predicted. Company spokesman Ragan Dickens told TheStreet on Tuesday, Aug. 29, that the big-box retailer has been monitoring impacted stores, from its emergency operations center in Bentonville, to ensure employees are safe and store shelves are stocked as well as possible.
My Walmart is prepared for hurrican Harvey! Look at all the water that's displayed! �� pic.twitter.com/UkONYCM1Pk
— manda panda (@niamxcashton) August 25, 2017
"It remains to be seen, but this storm has the potential to have a greater impact than Katrina," Dickens said. Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and racking up more than $100 billion in damages.
In Corpus Christi on Tuesday, Dickens said stores were beginning to be reopened and stocked with necessities. Walmart deployed 1,060 emergency trucks to Harvey-affected areas during the storm, with 937 of them carrying only crates of bottled water.
"The first stage is to prepare, the second is to recover and assess and the third is to start bringing stores back online," Dickens said. On Tuesday morning, 101 Walmart and Sam's Club locations were offline and within three hours after that, the number dropped to 86, he added.
Most of Walmart's Houston and Rockport, Texas, stores were still in the assessment phase on Tuesday, while extra supplies were being sent to locations in towns, such as Waco and Dallas, where Texans are fleeing for refuge.
"We have our transportation and safety teams working hand in hand," Dickens said. Walmart deploys safety teams first to check out the conditions of the roads that trucks are taking to get to affected areas, ensuring that none of its drivers are put in harm's way.
The big-box retailer, which generates almost $500 billion in sales each year, committed to at least $1 million in cash and product donations to Texas and Louisiana before Harvey even touched down, but then raised it to the $20 million on Wednesday.
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