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Hurricane Sandy's destructive path wreaks havoc on tire shops

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy's record rainfall and widespread destruction along the East Coast, most notably in New Jersey and New York, businesses and residents are still dealing with the effects.

The superstorm that generated destructive winds and even produced snow during its relentless march at the end of October has left millions still without power—and many are still sifting through the damage created by the natural disaster.

“We had approximately four foot of water throughout the shop,” said Bahaa Said, owner of Mr. B's Auto Service in Atlantic City. “And it destroyed about seven to 10 machines.”

Mr. Said told Tire Business he estimates damage of more than $100,000 with the amount of machinery destroyed. After being evacuated from the city for five days, Mr. Said came back to a water-filled, damaged shop. “They really didn't let us back in until the water was down,” he said. “All we came into was mass tires floating all over the place and all the machines destroyed and everything else.”

For Mr. B's, which updated its equipment just a few months ago, the scorecard is Sandy one, newly purchased machinery zero.

“We are doing what we can at this point,” he said. “We're working with a 40-year-old tire mounter and balancer instead of our three brand new ones that were bought two months ago.

“(With) our lift, we can't do a lot of stuff. We have one lift working and everybody is working on jacks and everything else, so it's hell right here, right now. But we got to survive, so we're doing what we can,” Mr. Said continued.

In a similar sentiment, Andy Weinstein, owner of Star Tire and Wheels in West Haven, Conn., said he and employees were dealing with about four to six inches of water around the entire store.

Mr. Weinstein said his wife Paige had brought in a small generator they had at home, and fans were rented to attempt to dry out the store.

He said it's been a major ordeal trying to vacuum up the excess water, which was pooled in the shop for four days without power. Because it was salt water from a local river that runs into the ocean, there was more corrosion damage than if it were fresh water.

Mr. Weinstein estimates about $5,000 to $10,000 worth of damage. He explained that many of the boxes that were holding wheels were damaged by the high water, causing corroded parts.

“I have dozens of wheels still out of boxes,” Mr. Weinstein said.

Cleaning up the water and sorting through the wheels and destroyed boxes has taken probably a couple of hundred man hours, he noted, and including that time in the damage estimate will likely bump up costs by several thousand dollars.

Mr. Weinstein does recognize that many other areas were hit a lot harder than West Haven. “Compared to many, it's a small nuisance,” he said.

One of those places hit hard by the storm was Undertoe Service Center in Long Beach Island, N.J. Owner Mark Atkinson said the shop's damage does not look too bad from the outside of the building, but once inside it's a different story.

Mr. Atkinson lamented that everything he owns in the shop was under four and a half feet of water. “Every piece of paper that I own—it was destroyed.”

Included in that destruction were two computers, at least 100 repair manuals, battery chargers, machines, chairs, desks, etc. Mr. Atkinson estimated the damage to his business to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“There was a state of emergency; nobody was open for about a week and a half,” he said, noting during that time “they had the whole island area here shut down. And we're still not really even functional.”

He said that roads were blocked off and the National Guard was in the city, and state police from Louisiana also were helping out in the city.

As of Nov. 14, Mr. Atkinson said the shop still was not functional and he wasn't able to sell a tire because he did not have any properly functioning tire balancers or other needed equipment. But “if people are stuck and they have a problem,” he added, “we do what we can for them.”

Somerset Tire Service Inc., the affected region's largest tire retailer with more than 140 stores, dodged a bullet for the most part.

STS President Bill Caulin told Tire Business none of the company's stores suffered damage although most suffered power outages of varying degrees and most were “quickly returning to normal levels” after a week of disruption.

The firm's headquarters in Somerset, N.J., lost power as well, he said, but was able to rely on a large backup generator.

The dealership suffered more flood damage in the past from Hurricanes Irene and Floyd, he added.

To reach this reporter: jkarpus@crain.com; 330-865-6143.

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Previous | Published December 6, 2018

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