NEW YORK — Along the Carolina coastline, textile companies on Tuesday were racing to fill orders and bracing for the possibility of plant shutdowns as Hurricane Isabel continued its march up through the Atlantic.

Executives said the biggest variable they were facing was the stability of the region’s power grid. While the low-slung, solid construction typical of textile mills tends to allow them to weather storms without much damage, they said the threat of having equipment suddenly shut down because of an electrical failure might make it advisable for mills to close as a precautionary measure.

“We’ve been in communication with our customers, and we’re trying to ship everything scheduled to go out this week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, since Thursday is very uncertain and Friday, who knows,” said Jim Chesnutt, president and chief executive officer of National Spinning Co., a yarn producer located on a river in Washington, N.C.

The National Weather Service in an update released at 5 p.m. Tuesday said a hurricane watch was in effect from Little River Inlet, S.C., through Chincoteague, Va. Isabel was about 570 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and the maximum sustained wind speed had dropped to 105 miles an hour, making it a class two storm. Isabel had been rated class five, the most destructive, over the weekend.

Chesnutt said there was a “50-50” chance the firm would have to shut down its facility, which employs about 400, for part of the storm.

“We’re watching very closely and have our team standing by. We will do whatever we need to,” he said. “We want to be certain that our employees are home and safe as can be with their families.”

At a Kinston, N.C., polyester plant operated by Invista — formerly DuPont Textiles & Interiors — site manager Robert Amos said his team had moved into hurricane-anticipation mode.

“We have a hurricane manual that we follow,” he said, explaining that preparation measures include everything from ensuring there’s no loose material outside the plant that could turn into a projectile to more mundane matters, such as building up a few days’ inventory of raw materials and shipping out all completed merchandise.The factory, which employs about 1,100 in a building that occupies 30 acres of land, is about 60 miles from the shores of Cape Fear.

Amos said when deciding whether to temporarily close the facility, “What we do is, while keeping first and foremost the safety of our employees in mind, we will try to make the decision at the last possible safe minute. A lot can happen if you buy yourself more time.”

However, given the complicated nature of polyester extrusion, he said it takes about two shifts, or 16 hours, to close the plant in an orderly manner. He said Invista tries to avoid shutting its facilities if at all possible.

“Anytime you have to do this, you get a disruption, it hurts your productivity,” he said. “You’re not able to focus on the things you’re able to do, like improving product quality and getting new products to customers.”

New York-based Texfi Marketing operates a dye house in Edenton, N.C., on the shores of the Albermale Sound, employing about 160 people. President Andrew Parise said the company is expecting to have to suspend operations at that site for about a day.

“They will lose power, probably,” he said, explaining the plant has typically lost power in past storms. “Our plan right now is to run right through midnight [today] and then close Thursday.”

Parise said he believes the threat of a power outage makes a preemptive shutdown the safest approach: “If you get shut off in the middle of a run and have goods left in the dye machines, it’s a mess.”

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