Wawa is expanding throughout Florida, and Hurricane Dorian gave some insight into challenges a growing number of the chain’s stores could face when treacherous weather hammers the Sunshine State.
The storm, which scraped by the state this week after initial forecasts projected a direct hit, prompted the Pennsylvania-based chain to mobilize its emergency preparedness procedures. It frequently updated its store impact list, provided information for resources, had designated fuel pumps for emergency responders, and adjusted gas prices when necessary for evacuees.
Wawa got permission from Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture to sell higher-grade fuels — like super and premium — at the same price as “regular” when the lower-grade option ran out.
“It’s something we don’t want people to have to incur, that additional expense during a time like that.... That’s something we wanted to try to avoid," said Wawa spokesperson Lori Bruce, who said the store sought a similar waiver from New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the region in 2012.
The price drop was only used in about 10% of Florida’s 192 stores, she said. Bruce praised suppliers for keeping fuel in stock, preventing the need to drop prices in more stores.
The move came as Florida’s attorney general warned of price gouging, which is barred on many necessities during emergencies, and set up a hotline to report scams. The office is now looking at more than 2,400 reports of price gouging, including a gas station that sold a 24-case of water, original price around $4, for $9, the Miami Herald reported.
Wawa wasn’t the only businesses catering to those bracing for impact. Publix, a regional supermarket chain, reduced the price of a higher-brand of bottled water to match the store’s, according to the Fort Myers News-Press, which first reported on Wawa’s fuel-price adjustment. Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb were offering free or discounted services as well. Florida’s Department of Agriculture also later enacted an emergency order that would make gas more affordable throughout the state.
Its effects will also be felt at the New Jersey Shore Friday, when the hurricane’s dangerous winds will make for rough seas.
The storm didn’t completely free Wawa of hiccups, however. A pair of burglars allegedly stole beer and food from a closed Florida store as the storm picked up, Florida Today reported, while 13 Wawa customers were accidentally charged the incorrect fuel price, Bruce said.
Hurricane preparation could become more routine for the brand — by 2021, Wawa expects to have more stores in Florida than it has in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Bruce said it’s prepared to respond to crisis, whether it be hurricanes or the blizzards more common to the Philadelphia region.