State News

Lowe's employees face uncertain future

Posted April 18, 2011

— Two days after a tornado shrieked through their workplace, leaving one of the most memorable images of Saturday's spate of storms, employees of the Sanford Lowe's Home Improvement store met Monday to plan what to do next.

Nine representatives of the Mooresville-based home improvement chain's Human Resources Department were in Sanford Monday to help the 160 employees of the store at 3015 S. Horner Blvd. with questions about new assignments and Employee Relief Fund applications. Lowe's will maintain an employee hotline and help desk in Lee County through Wednesday at the Sanford Civic Center between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Lowe's plans to rebuild in Sanford, but that timetable is up in the air.

Lowe's employees get counsel, job advice

Sanford police Capt. J.R. Weeks credited store manager Michael Hollowell and his employees with saving dozens of lives when they herded customers to the windowless rear area of the store as the storm bore down. 

Kathy Hendricks and her husband were regular customers to the home improvement store. "We had just bought a house a month ago," she said.

On Saturday, as the storm approached, they headed to the store for their weekly shopping trip. "We need to get somewhere safe. We're going to Lowe's," she laughed. "Guess what? We were right in the path."

They were among dozens who huddled in the back of the store as the storm destroyed the front of the store. 

"We watched it come over the sky and said, 'Yo, this can't be happening to us," said employee Jeff Glenn.

For some employees, the noise as the steel roof tore off resonates days later.

"It's like a bad dream still this morning," one employee said. "You come back this morning, and it really happened."

The front of the store looked as if it had been flattened, and cars in the parking lot were flipped over on their roofs, but no one was seriously injured.

North Carolina officials tallied more than 130 serious injuries, 65 homes destroyed and another 600 significantly damaged by Sunday evening, according to state public safety spokeswoman Julia Jarema. Officials expect those totals to climb as damage assessments continue.

Fatalities occurred in Wake, Johnston, Cumberland, Harnett, Lee, Bertie and Bladen counties, said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

In all of Lee County, where Sanford is located, officials said there was just one confirmed fatality during the storm.

"We're just thankful that more people weren't hurt," said Cindy Hall, a local Red Cross volunteer. Other businesses nearby were also badly damaged, including a tractor supply store which saw its roof ripped off.

Hollowell said he'd heard severe weather warnings earlier in the day, but his first glimpse of imminent danger came when he saw employees running toward the back of the store. The safest part of the store, with joined concrete walls and without heavy inventory stacked high on shelves, it was the destination in an emergency, set in the store's preparedness plan.

Hollowell looked out the front door and saw the tornado nearly across the street. He called his assistants into action on in-store phones and in seconds the warnings had the 50 or so employees and up to 60 customers running to the back, packed in shoulder-to-shoulder.

"One person didn't save all those lives," he said. "It was a team effort." 

President Barack Obama called Hollowell Monday to offer his gratitude. 

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  • 6079 SMITH W Apr 18, 6:14 p.m.

    Roger that, blackdog.....there ain't NO Corporate Love like Corporate Love in the Spotlight....with the cameras rolling. ;)

  • blackdog Apr 18, 5:48 p.m.

    Corporate love...

  • 12-21-12 Apr 18, 5:30 p.m.

    How about a fast rebuild with all the Lowes employees in the area getting paid to help and learn on the job. You would have great knowledge of all products and paid training.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Apr 18, 4:53 p.m.

    Oh deli, you know that's how they write the stuff. If it wasn't for sensationalism they'd be off the air.

  • hfweather Apr 18, 4:46 p.m.

    if a company offers you another position you are not elgible for unemployment why some people just talk just to hear themselves speak.lowes has plenty of money,what insurance is about,besides they donated 1 million dollars to japan so they not hurting.

  • delilahk2000 Apr 18, 4:44 p.m.

    I JUST LOVE THE WAY WRAL DRAMATIZES THEIR HEADLINES. THERE IS NOTHING UNCERTAIN ABOUT LOWES EMPLOYES FUTURE. THEY SAID THEY WOULD BE PLACED AT OTHER STORES AND THIS STORE WOULD BE REBUILT. FOR ONCE WHY CAN'T YOU TELL A STORY WITHOUT THE LIES???? THEY ARE BEING LOOKED AFTER.....

  • hunt36 Apr 18, 4:40 p.m.

    a good company will compensate them to show there support as lowes is the best home improvement co in my opinion i would be surprised if they did not do something extra for them. after all they are there i saw one fellow golo poster say helping clean up. no they don't have to but it shows they care about their employees and the employees care about the company or they would not be there helping clean up. if they do they are out money i agree jonnraleigh but they have insurance and millions or more to rebuild i bet the average pay at lowes at the highest is 10 bucks an hour and with gas almost 4 bucks who is hurting the worst? had this happened in Raleigh or Cary it would be different huh!

  • 6079 SMITH W Apr 18, 4:35 p.m.

    Careful now, all you Knights-Who-Were-Until-Recently-Against-Unemployment-Compens
    ation.......Don't show any compassion for these displaced workers, they conjured up that storm JUST SO they could quit working, like EVERYBODY else on unemployment. ;)

  • josephlawrence43 Apr 18, 4:05 p.m.

    They will probably be eligible for Unemployment under the "No Work Available" clause. The store is cloed (destroyed), and there is no work for them to do in their usual and customary position.

  • chathamtalbott Apr 18, 4:02 p.m.

    There is a Lowes also in Pittsboro, not terribly far from Sanford. Best wishes to the employees.

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