Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 28, continues “feverishly” says the president of an auto glass and calibration operation in Fort Myers. While debris still lines the streets, and many stoplights, as well as hundreds of thousands of people, are without power, the industry is doing what it can to offer relief to its customers.
Tony Padula, president of A+ Auto Glass & Calibrations in Fort Myers, Fla., hoped that his business would be back in operation by Monday, Oct. 3 after closing shop when Hurricane Ian hit. In reality, business wasn’t back to some degree of normalcy until Wednesday, Oct. 5. Padula knew the importance of preparing for hurricane season, so he made sure his business was equipped with generators in the event of such a storm.
“It’s tough over here still,” he says. “We still have a lot of traffic lights out. Other than that, we’re seeing progress. The governor is unbelievable. We’re seeing progress toward everything, and they’re working as fast as they can to get the power restored.”
The delay in a return to normalcy, at least for Padula, wasn’t related to power outages. Rather, it came down to whether distributors were able to make their deliveries safely. To that end, some distributors have made slight changes in the way they go about their deliveries, at least for the time being. For example, Padula says A+ Auto Glass is currently receiving shipments from Mygrant Glass during the day as opposed to the evening.
“Pilkington was the first one that was up, and then Mygrant followed suit. Our deliveries are basically uninterrupted,” Padula says, adding that the changes came in the name of safety. “And understandably so. The area we’re in suffered a lot of damage, but not as much as other areas. I think the distributors are being cautious about where they’re sending their drivers. They want to protect them and not put them in difficult situations.”
He says both distributors have done an “outstanding job” staying in contact with their customers and providing the much-needed glass. After “returning to normal” this past Wednesday, Padula says business is booming on Thursday, Oct. 6.
“We’re only doing in-shop, we’re not doing mobile,” he says. “Those who are doing mobile, God bless them. Yesterday we were normal again and now, of course, it’s busy. We’ve had some windshields lying on the dashboard from trees, and just overall a lot of damage from trees. Fortunately, for most people, it’s been mostly the glass, not body damage.”
Overall, approximately 60% of customers at A+ need assistance with their windshields while 40% are coming to the shop for tempered glass. While the state is still recovering, people are now at the point where they are beginning to address the damage. That includes damage to their windshields.
“Everybody, from the installers to distributors to customers, we all just have to exercise an enormous amount of patience and understanding with what just happened here, and work with everybody the best we can,” Padula says. “I think the ultimate goal isn’t who gets the job, the ultimate goal is getting the customer’s window fixed. We all play a part in that. This is as much of a recovery situation as it is a business one.”
In other news, Boyd Group Services Inc., announced on Tuesday, Oct. 4 that nearly all Gerber Collision & Glass locations that were temporarily closed in Florida and South Carolina had re-opened. In total, 62 collision locations were impacted by temporary closures, as was the Florida Glass America business.
“As of today, four collision locations in Southwest Florida remain closed, and may remain closed for several weeks,” Boyd wrote in a news release. “Where practical, staff have been reassigned to alternate locations that were less severely impacted.”
“We are pleased to report that all of our employees have come through this storm safely,” says Timothy O’Day, president and chief executive officer of the Boyd Group. “We will continue to support them as they come together to rebuild and recover from this devastating event. Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the impact of Hurricane Ian.”
Businesses and homeowners in need of assistance with respect to Hurricane Ian recovery, have many available resources. Residents can apply for FEMA disaster assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov, or at 800-621-3362. Small businesses in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Polk, DeSoto, Hardee, Seminole, and Highlands counties, to name a few, that experienced economic loss or physical damage from Ian are eligible for short-term, zero-interest loans. See the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program and https://flgov.com/ for more information.