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Distributors in Florida were battered but not beaten by the fury of hurricane Charley. In its aftermath, they're doing all they can to help the area rebuild.
The storm reached Category 4 force, with winds up to 145 mph, as it thrashed its way across the Florida peninsula Friday night, August 13. When it moved on up the Atlantic coast and back out to sea the next day, it left massive destruction in its wake. At least 16 people died in the storm, and thousands more were injured. Estimates have ranged as high as $20 billion in damage to homes and businesses, as many as two million people without power, and tens of thousands rendered homeless.
Hughes Supply, headquartered in Orlando with hundreds of branch locations throughout Florida, said none of its employees was seriously injured in the storm. Fifteen of its branches were temporarily closed before and shortly after, due to evacuations or hurricane preparations. While some branches sustained minor damage and some lost power for a full week, all are now re-opened and fully operational, said Hughes Supply CEO Tom Morgan.
In the face of Charley, Hughes saw its business-continuation plans put to a ferocious test. Being ready for such a natural disaster is just part of doing business in Florida, says Mel Meineke, vice president of corporate marketing. "The disaster response process is just part of Hughes' culture."
The storm raged over Florida through much of Friday night. Saturday morning, Hughes employees went to work moving inventory and equipment into the areas where it was needed most. Hughes Supply said in a press release that it expected its losses due to damage, branch closures and delayed construction projects to be offset by increased business in its Utilities segment.
Indeed, Progress Power, a utility serving over 500,000 of the homes and businesses that lost power, said its crews had ordered and used more than 5 million feet of wire, more than 2,000 power poles and almost 6,000 transformers in its efforts to restore power during the first week after the storm.
Miller Bearings, also based in Orlando with 19 locations throughout the state, escaped the storm with no injuries, little disruption and no serious damage to its facilities. "We consider ourselves extremely fortunate," said Craig Faber, chief executive of the distributorship.
"We have a branch in Fort Myers, near where the hurricane hit when it first came ashore, so we have a lot of individuals living in that area. Only a handful of employees suffered damage to their homes, though there are a lot without power. We're doing everything we can to help them," Faber said.
The Miller Bearings branch in Fort Myers and the one in Daytona, where the storm passed through on its way into the Atlantic, lost power for two days, but the disruption was limited, Faber said.
"Friday, when everyone was evacuating or preparing for the storm, business was off or nonexistent," Faber said. "Because of disruptions in traffic and services it's been slow to come back, but we are seeing it rebounding."
The streets of southwest Florida are still piled with debris, tree limbs and tree trunks, and the cleanup is ongoing, Faber said. The difficulties delivery trucks and everyone else had navigating the streets of the storm-damaged areas have begun to improve.
To help with the rebuilding and recovery process, distributors are also digging into their pockets. Hughes Supply has donated $100,000 to disaster relief efforts in Florida. The company donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross, $25,000 to the Salvation Army and $50,000 to the Hughes Supply Foundation, all earmarked to assist in rebuilding and recovery efforts.
"We want to do all we can to help Florida recover and renew itself in the wake of Hurricane Charley," said Morgan. "We are fortunate that none of our employees were seriously injured and that we have the ability to give to those in need during this time of crisis."
' Doug Chandler