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Obstacles mean no business as usual

With phone service but no power, SCC Soft Computer in Palm Harbor was forced to cancel training sessions for out-of-town customers Monday and send most of its 500 employees home.

At Tampa International Airport, workers at Raytheon Aircraft Services were picking up debris from a canopy destroyed by Sunday's storm.

And at Ceridian Benefit Services in St. Petersburg, chief executive Jim Corcoran was dealing with a power outage, generator problems and half his usual number of employees.

"We're scrambling to keep up," said Corcoran, whose company administers benefits for major corporations nationwide. "The security of the data is not an issue. It's a matter of being able to get to the data."

As businesses all over the Tampa Bay area discovered in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, the best-laid contingency plans can be tripped up by the unexpected.

Like the last-minute school cancellations that forced hundreds of Ceridian's employees to stay home with kids Monday.

Or the scattered power failures that had managers of four area Walgreens leading customers through their stores by flashlight.

Or the unexpectedly strong winds that punched holes in the roof of a Winn-Dixie in Inverness, ripped stucco off the facade of a Publix in Valrico and did about $250,000 damage to Raytheon's terminal canopy and maintenance and storage buildings at TIA.

John Willis, Raytheon's regional vice president, estimated it could take six to eight weeks to replace the facility's canopy, but since the covering is for convenience _ keeping rain and sun off customers _ that won't disrupt business.

About two-thirds of Raytheon's work at TIA involves aircraft maintenance, which was unaffected by storm damage. But its refueling business was slow Monday because few private planes were flying into Tampa. There was a bump in the number of outbound flights, however, as nearly 40 planes that had sought shelter in Tampa returned to their home bases in South Florida.

Elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area, businesses were coming back on line as quickly as utility companies could restore power. Publix started the day with 33 stores in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties operating on generators. By late afternoon, that number was down to 11.

Kash n' Karry Stores Inc. had 20 stores reporting outages in the morning, but that number was down to a handful by 5 p.m. The grocer's distribution center in Plant City, meanwhile, was being powered by generators.

At SCC, which develops computer programs for clinical labs and other health care providers, employees were being asked to check in every half-hour for updates on the company's status as it awaited the restoration of power.

The company's computer servers, on which it maintains lab records for patients, were running on generators, so they remained accessible to clients despite the outage. Callers were being diverted to remote locations. And some of the company's software engineers and programmers were able to work from home, power permitting.

Still, SCC president Jean Hakim guessed the outage could cost his company about $150,000 a day in lost productivity.

"We want to make sure that we are at least listed as a priority" for power restoration, he said.