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Businesses plan to make adjustments as needed

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Business owners bracing for today's nor'easter said Tuesday's rash of meetings and conference calls represented just the beginning of adjustments they'd be making to contingency plans as the storm got under way.

Major employers such as Electric Boat and Pfizer Inc. began assessing the storm's impact Tuesday in an effort to determine whether any work shifts would be canceled.

This week's storm is expected to bring 16 inches or more to southeastern Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service. And with winds gusting up to 30 mph, likely low visibility and rapid accumulations, safety as well as operations were on the minds of company officials.

One business, Cross Sound Ferry, canceled all ferry departures for today.

Electric Boat and Pfizer expected to be open today, but they crafted detailed plans to notify thousands of workers early in the morning of any shift adjustments or closings. EB has about 10 ,000 employees in Groton and New London, while Pfizer has about 5,000 staff and employees in Groton.

"Three hours prior to a shift start, we will make public notification of whether or not we will suspend any operations - no later than 3 a.m.," said Sean Davies, EB's director of facilities. "We're just going to have to wait and see what the conditions are."

Roughly 50 facilities personnel, transportation staff and carpenters will augment the work that contractors do to clear snow, said Davies. EB made special provisions for them to stay later, sleep and get hot meals as they work through the night and day to clear snow, he said.

Pfizer spokeswoman Sperry Mylott noted in an e-mail that the company advises workers and staff to check in with managers and use their best judgment when driving to and from work during the storm.

"We are following the forecast closely, and our operations teams will respond accordingly," Sperry wrote.

With patients depending on them, The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London are operating today, having made many adjustments to keep their doors open.

"Obviously, no matter what the weather, we don't have the luxury of totally shutting down, but there are things we can do to prepare to make things as easy as possible," said Backus spokesman Shawn Mawhiney.

Patients who could be discharged were, so there would be fewer patients depending on staff today, Mawhiney said. Some staff were asked to come in ahead of the storm or stay longer through it. Notices were distributed Tuesday to patients urging them to postpone having visitors today until the storm subsides, he said.

"What makes this storm different than others over the years is the timing of it, with the heavy snow coming when the bulk of our employees come in in the morning," Mawhiney said.

L&M spokesman Michael O'Farrell said the city hospital would be "functional because we have patients to take care of."

"Obviously, we're paying attention to the storm, but we're open for business," he said. "People coming off shift will get a place to rest or sleep if the weather is a challenge. Staff and patients will have access to the hospital when they need it."

Plenty of milk and bread

Grocers in Ledyard and around the region said they were well-stocked because of the advance notice for the snowstorm.

"Centrally, we subscribe to a weather forecasting program that's monitored by warehousing for distribution," said ShopRite owner Ken Capano Sr., who operates stores in Norwich, New London and Clinton. "They alert us in advance, and that alerts us to get things early like milk and bread, so we're loaded. We're absolutely loaded to the gills with product."

Meanwhile, on Tuesday alone, Taylor Rental & Repair in Groton had sold 32 snowblowers by 5 p.m. and planned to open along with Johnson's True Value Hardware at the regular time, 7 a.m., today, owner Mike Mattson said. On Monday, Mattson sold 12 snowblowers.

"We'll tell anyone that can get here safely to come in," hardware store Manager Bill Johnson said, referring to his employees. "Ones that are farther out, we'll probably have them stay home. We'll do our best to meet the needs of the customers."

At Taylor Rental, both Terry Rathbun of Groton and Joseph Corbin of Groton City bought snowblowers at about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, parting with about $1,000 apiece. Rathbun said he had been to several stores that were sold out, including Home Depot, Walmart and Benny's.

"I've got my driveway to do, my daughter's driveway and my son's, so there's three families that'll use it," reasoned Rathbun.

"I want something that's going to just start and go," said Rathbun's daughter, Lynn Dean.

Corbin said he doesn't want to have a heart attack while shoveling. "They're talking about a foot and a half" of snow, he said.

His wife, Maria, finished the thought.

"... We decided it'd be a good investment for my husband in retirement," she said.

p.daddona@theday.com

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