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Hurricane Harvey Whataburger boat rescue

Restaurants deluged by Hurricane Harvey aftermath

Operators face historic flooding across southeast Texas

Restaurants across a wide swath of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast continued to deal with rain and flooding on Monday in the lingering aftermath of  Hurricane Harvey.

As Harvey continued to hover over South Texas as a tropical storm, the National Weather Service warned that rainfall in some areas could reach 50 inches in an “unprecedented” event with impacts “beyond anything experienced.” The deluge was so large that the weather service had to add colors to its rainfall maps.

Many restaurants in Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, with more than 2.2 million people, remained closed amid the historic flooding. Federal officials warned that more than 30,000 people could be forced from their homes.

Because the rain and flooding were continuing, insurers did not have firm damage estimates, but Enki Research estimated that costs could mount to $30 billion.

San Antonio, Texas-based Whataburger reported that all of its Houston-area restaurants were closed on Monday.

“Some of our family members were unable to leave our restaurants because floodwaters rose so quickly,” the company said in a statement. “We are working diligently with first responders, as well as other resources, to move them to safety.”

Some Whataburger customers in the Houston area were rescued via boat, documented in security-camera footage.

“In the Corpus Christi area, our operations teams are opening restaurants as soon as the power is back on, staff is available, and fresh ingredients and supplies are delivered,” Whataburger said. “As we open restaurants, we will have limited menus, hours and drive-through service only. Once we recover from the storm, we will be fully operational.” 

In downtown Houston, the long-standing Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant began flooding on Sunday morning.

“Based on the latest reports, the main floor of the restaurant is under water, and it appears as though the flooding is risen to a height above the first floor,” said David Ayers, a spokesman for Spaghetti Warehouse.

“The management of Spaghetti Warehouse has been in contact with all of the staff in Houston (no reports of any trouble) and the management team is working on a recovery plan at this time,” he said. 

All 10 Houston-area Long John Silver’s restaurants were closed, according to Gary Gerdemann, spokesman for the brand. All 10 are company-owned.

“First order of business was making contact with store managers and finding out safety and well-being of employees,” Gerdemann said in an email. “We believe all are safe although we know that a number of employees’ homes are flooded. About half of the restaurants have power, although at this time, we don’t know how operational they are.”

Gerdemann said the company would pay employees for hours scheduled this week even if their restaurant does not open.

Elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, damage to a wide number of restaurants was reported. In Port Aransas, a town on the barrier islands east of Corpus Christi, social media users posted photographs of the destruction of Moby Dick’s, a tiki bar and restaurant. Parts of Snoopy’s Pier in Corpus Christi were destroyed, but the restaurant planned to reopen the main part this week.

Meanwhile, foodservice brands and individual restaurants made plans to help the communities affected.

The Seattle-based Starbucks Foundation, which said it has 4,500 employees in the Houston area, made an initial donation of $250,000 to the American Red Cross. The company’s customers can also make donations to the American Red Cross in Starbucks locations across the United States.

Starbucks manager Whitney Evans (left) of Friendswood, Texas, reported rescuing trapped Starbucks workers from their homes in her van during the rain, which started Friday and was expected to continue through the end of the week.

“It was like artillery fire in the sky,” Evans said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

Evans and her husband took breakfast sandwiches to firefighters and other first responders and then volunteered at a shelter.

Starbucks partners can request assistance from the Starbucks Caring Unites Partners Fund, a fund started by partners in 1998 to help provide financial relief during times of crisis.

Owner Philipp Sitter of King’s BierHaus in Houston, which received some flood damage, said he was planning a fundraiser for restaurant industry workers impacted by Harvey as soon as King’s was able to reopen. Sitter photographed the flooding in the restaurant’s parking lot on Sunday (left).

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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