Those of us who reside thousands of miles from a natural disaster watch it unfold empathetically, praying for the safety and well-being of those affected. We see images of the natural disaster, be it a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or volcanic eruption, and often are moved to act, sending money, supplies, or both, to aid in the recovery effort.
But sadly, a few weeks after the disaster strikes, we often lose interest. Life happens.
And life for tire dealers in Puerto Rico who were affected by last September's natural disaster, Hurricane Maria, has changed radically.
For those who have survived and persevered, the hurricane actually has been a boon to their businesses.
"Everyone who had equipment, like backhoes, loaders and those equipment used in construction, had a lot of work," said Josue Correa, president of Correa Tire Distributors, one of those businesses that has thrived.
"There's no more (spare) equipment for all the demand for construction and paving. And that all needs tires."
Tire shops were kept busy replacing tires on vehicles damaged from navigating debris-strewn roads, particularly from nails from dwellings that were blown apart or from roofs that were being replaced. One tire shop owner said that sales have increased 40 percent as a result of the disaster.
That's the good news for dealers.
But most still are grappling with some of the problems that arose in the wake of the storm.
Product deliveries have been slow. Electrical service remains spotty. Dealers still are waiting to receive reimbursement from insurance companies. Logistics have been difficult.
And scrap tires continue to pile up.
"We have a flood of scrap tires, and the government is not doing anything," Mr. Correa said. He estimates there are 10,000 to 15,000 scrap tires piled up on his property.
The worst outcome, however, might be the loss of tire businesses on the island. Some smaller shops, unable to stay open for various reasons, have closed, probably forever.
"It's a different Puerto Rico," said Primo J. Delgado, owner and president of tire retailer and wholesaler World Wide Tires Inc. "We lost long-time shops, mom-and-pop tire shops."
The upheaval in the industry has opened the door to more low-priced Chinese tires. The price-driven market has prompted dealers to carry "a lot of weird brands that you've never heard of," Mr. Delgado said.
Hurricane Maria has had lasting effects on the Puerto Rican tire industry. The destructive winds that we watched rattle the island last fall continue to wreak havoc today.
Keep that in mind as you watch tomorrow's natural disaster. And remember, hurricane season starts again on June 1.