When Hurricane Sandy struck the Caribbean and Eastern United States in late October, she left behind $52.4 billion in damage and a couple of hundred fatalities. Sandy touched land in Atlantic City, NJ, and wrought havoc on the Jersey shoreline and throughout New York City, causing severe flooding and a loss of electricity. With such a vast amount of damage, collision shops in the area affected have taken a huge hit.
Ed Kizenberger, Executive Director of LIABRA (Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association), notes that Hurricane Sandy was “one of the most catastrophic, weather-related events that the collision industry has had to endure.” He notes that many shops in the NYC area are still closed, due not only to flooding and a lack of electricity, but also because of the damage sustained to equipment, computers, etc. The largest challenge that owners currently face is the fact that many live near their shops, so they are working on restorations for both their businesses and their homes.
In addition to facing up to six feet of water, shops also have to contend with the partially or fully repaired vehicles in their facilities that were flooded during the hurricane. Most of the vehicles that sustained damage from the storm have been declared total losses, but there are some more fortunate whose vehicles were damaged by felled trees and debris, and undamaged shops are starting to process these repairs, though there is a devastating backlog due to the sheer volume of damaged vehicles.
Though Sandy hit hardest in NJ and NY, her effects were also felt farther north. While Al Brodeur’s Auto Body, Inc. of Marlborough, MA, never lost power, Molly Brodeur notes, “We have definitely noticed an uptick in business since the storm—a lot of damaged panels from debris, but we haven’t had any issues with parts or receiving products in a timely manner since the storm.”
According to Jeff McDowell, President of AASP/NJ, many shops in NJ have suffered severe damage as a result of the storm. All low-lying areas were hammered, and many continue to be closed due to lack of power even now, three weeks later. Recovery efforts are still ongoing. McDowell notes that tens of thousands of vehicles were affected by the storm, causing an extreme back-up in repairs, especially since so many shops are currently out of operation. Many of these vehicles have been declared total losses and have been moved to parking lots pending processing while recovery efforts are being made.
As a result of such a large quantity of lost vehicles, rental cars are in an extreme shortage, and many people are without transportation at the moment since importing rentals from nearby states still is not enough to maintain supply for the demand of rentals.
Despite the many challenges caused by Hurricane Sandy, NJ shops are determined to rebuild. Many AASP/ NJ members’ shops managed to escape damage from the storm, and these owners have volunteered their services to help their peers in the industry. McDowell states, “That’s one thing you can always count on. As much as we compete, we are all part of the same brotherhood. Sometimes the worst brings out the best in us. We have seen a lot of that since the storm, and I am proud of those who have stepped up.”
Anyone interested in helping the NJ victims can send donations to Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, P. O. Box 95, Mendham, NJ 07945-0095.