The immediate impact of Hurricane Katrina on Area Wholesale Tire Co. (AWT) of Baton Rouge is relatively limited-the firm's New Orleans warehouse is intact but out of reach temporarily.
The longer term impact is harder to gauge-it's still not clear how many of the firm's customers might be out of business. For now, though, President Billy Patton is thankful to have avoided a greater calamity.
AWT has taken the dozen or so employees from its New Orleans warehouse under its wing, setting them up with clothing and temporary housing and putting them to work in Baton Rouge or one of its other warehouse locations, Mr. Patton said.
Most of these employees fled New Orleans ahead of the storm and have little if anything to return to. Some of the employees reported family members missing, and two suffered the loss of a parent, he said.
Short term, AWT volunteered its delivery trucks for getting relief supplies into the stricken area, Mr. Patton said, and the firm already has orders for commercial tires for emergency crew vehicles in and around New Orleans.
Mr. Patton said he anticipates some short-term hiccups in deliveries from his suppliers as off-shore imports he normally would get through New Orleans are being diverted to ports in Texas or the West Coast. He also anticipates some delivery delays from domestic sources until trucks diverted to delivering relief supplies are back to regular schedules.
``We've heard from most of our customers,'' he said, ``and most are anxious to get going again. Many have called to reassure us they'll be paying their bills.''
AWT operates wholesale distribution facilities in Baton Rouge-including a 50,000-sq.-ft. mixing warehouse opened in late August-Lafayette and Shreveport, La., and Dallas and San Antonio, along with a retread plant in Baton Rouge. It also distributes from Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, and Clovis, N.M., through its affiliate York Tire.