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On October 4, South Carolina experienced a “thousand year flood” as Hurricane Joaquin ripped through the capital city of Columbia, unleashing 20-30 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.
Autobody News reached out to a handful of body shops in the area, all of which were not directly affected by the hurricane. For the past 10 days, these shops have been sifting through the wreckage to find which vehicles are salvageable, and which ones are beyond help.
“Once the vehicle has been completely submerged underwater, it is difficult to repair, but not impossible,” said Dominick Santoro, an estimator at Caliber Collision in Columbia.
Although Caliber Collision remained open amidst Joaquin, Santoro experienced damages on the home front.
“Half of the road I live on was washed away,” he said. “The state is saying it may not be restored until March or April.”
When we spoke with Santoro on October 8, the shop was waiting to get claims processed for the flood damaged vehicles.
“We have about 7 to 8 vehicles here that we are working on [post flood], but we also have our own work that we had in before the flooding started,” he added.
Caliber Collision, which is a DRP for State Farm, Liberty Mutual, and Safeco, had a State Farm agent on the premise helping to assess vehicles.
“You have to press a little bit more,” said Santoro. “Instead of getting off work at 6 pm, you have to work till 7 pm. You come in at 8 am instead of 8:30 am; we got to get the vehicles done and get them out. These people need their cars back and need to get their life back to usual.”
He said he can’t put a number on how long it will take for the Palmetto State to make a full recovery, but it seems that “usual” won’t be for a while.
“The State of South Carolina is doing the best they can,” said Santoro. “About 300 roads have been washed out; right now it’s important to get the infrastructure together in the city; without infrastructure, people can’t get to us to get their vehicle fixed.”
Santoro owned a repair shop in New York for 25 years and he is no stranger to how unforgiving Mother Nature can be.
“Predicting weather is not an exact science, but we were warned that there would be flooding of epic proportions,” he said. “Some took those warnings with a grain of salt, others took them to heart. The ones who took them to heart are the ones who are doing okay.”
Santoro said there are barricades all over the city.
“Right now it’s like a mouse in a maze,” he said. “You’re trying to get him in one end and out the other.”
Santoro said if there is one thing South Carolina residents can take away from this natural disaster, it’s to “listen; heed the warning.”
Broad River Paint & Body Shop, also in Columbia, reported no damage. Despite the fact that most of the staff was unable to make it to work, they stayed open during the hurricane, and were able to repair a few wrecked vehicles.
St. Andrews Express Body Shop reported no damage to the shop itself. However, the vehicles that did come in went to straight to salvage due to water rising all the way up to the dashboard.
Jimmy Rivers Used Foreign Car and Summit Collision Ctr Inc. reported no damage.
Autobody News also reached out to State Farm’s South Carolina media representative, Justin Tomczak, who submitted the following statement:
“Body shops and car dealerships can expect State Farm to deliver the highest level of service to our customers as we help South Carolina recover from this event. State Farm has deployed estimating and claim handling resources to deliver the highest level of service to our customers as we help South Carolina recover from this event. Additionally, State Farm agents, agent’s staff, and local employees are also helping customers as we begin the recovery from this event.”
For more information on state road conditions, or other vehicle-related inquiries, please call 1-855-467-2368, or visit www.scdot.org