Distributors Recovering from Hurricane Ike

Sept. 19, 2008
Electrical distributors who spoke with Electrical Marketing several days after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas’ Gulf Coast region said most of their branches were able to open within a few days after the storm hit on Sept. 13.

Electrical distributors who spoke with Electrical Marketing several days after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas’ Gulf Coast region said most of their branches were able to open within a few days after the storm hit on Sept. 13.

Texas distributors located near the Gulf Coast told Electrical Marketing that although they had suffered minimal damage to their facilities and they believed all of their employees were safe, getting fuel for trucks was sometimes a challenge because so many gas stations were without power. All electrical distributors EM talked with had lost electricity and had to power their facilities with generators immediately following the storm.

About two million customers remained without power across eastern Texas as of Sept. 16, three days after the hurricane hit. Entergy, the utility that serves the area east of Houston, has restored power to about 40,000 of its 395,000 customers. Entergy Texas is projecting an Oct. 6 restoration of electric service to all customers. CenterPoint, which serves Houston and Galveston, Texas, had made more progress, but still had 1.5 million customers in the dark, according to a Sept. 17 article in The New York Times.

Hurricane Ike is being blamed for the deaths of more than 50 people. The 110 mph winds, heavy rain and massive flooding from Hurricane Ike left Galveston in ruins.

Thirteen of Elliott Electric Supply’s stores were without power or data after the storm hit, said Bill Elliott, the company’s president. Most of the locations were in the Houston area, but several were in the East Texas region closer to the Gulf of Mexico, he said. By Sept. 17, only two of Elliott Electric’s stores — in La Marque, Texas, 10 minutes outside of Galveston, and Pearland, Texas — were without power and operating on generators.

“There is minor damage to buildings, and our RDC in Houston and headquarters in Nacogdoches are in good shape,” said Elliott. Several bay doors blew off of Elliott Electric Supply’s RDC, which is on the northwest side of Houston, and a bay door blew in at Elliott Electric’s Tomball location. “Other than that, our buildings all look pretty good,” said Greg Fitzgerald, Houston area manager for Elliott Electric Supply.

The biggest challenge facing Elliott Electric in the Houston area has been getting fuel, said Greg Fitzgerald, the company’s Houston area manager. “The gas stations are backed up,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to just get fuel. If you don’t have power at these gas stations, you can’t gas up.” As a result, Fitzgerald said those people living in areas without power are traveling to the areas where there is fuel to gas up, contributing to long lines at gas stations.

That has had an impact on Elliott Electric’s fleet, says Fitzgerald, especially immediately following the storm. “We have to be a little more strategic about how we make our deliveries. Of course we have a night crew at our RDC location. So we have a night crew finding fuel stations at night and filling up. So that has worked out pretty well for us. But we still have to be, not as much now, but we had to pretty careful about how we made deliveries. We didn’t want to have one of our trucks run out of diesel and not be able to get the guy back to the store.”

Beginning Sept. 22, Elliott Electric Supply will start offering 24/7 service from its regional distribution center in Houston, he said Fitzgerald.

At Crawford Electric Supply Co. (CESCO), Houston, Craig Levering, the company’s president, sent word to Sonepar executives on the status of the company’s employees and facilities on Sept. 15, two days after the storm hit. His message said, “As far as we know, all of our people are safe. Our building in Houston did not suffer any structural damage or water damage. The power is not up yet, but our phones and computers are working on generators.

“Our front CESCO sign was blown off the building and across the street (and that was a big sign); and there are metal buildings surrounding us that were completely demolished. I feel good about our concrete construction. I will let you know as soon as everyone is accounted for and when power is back on.”

In Albuquerque, N.M., Summit Electric Supply was doing its part to help hurricane victims. Summit Electric Supply President and CEO Victor R. Jury Jr. said Summit Electric Supply will donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Ike relief efforts. Summit’s four locations in the hurricane-affected Texas cities of Beaumont, Clute, La Porte and Houston escaped major damage and all 116 associates escaped injury. “Thanks to some solid planning and preparation by our leaders and teams in Beaumont, Clute, Houston and La Porte, all locations are open for business and serving customers,” Jury said. “We have taken steps to ensure business continuity and to have the post-storm materials on hand that will be needed to get the affected communities up and running as soon as possible.”

All four Summit locations were open and operating on Sept. 15, including phones and delivery trucks. Three of the service centers were using generators. Clute city power was restored by mid-morning. Other Summit locations in the immediate area and in the region are helping and supporting the four branches that were impacted. Summit associates began emergency preparations as early as Sept. 9, ahead of the storm. Most evacuated the area Sept. 12, as officials had directed, but returned late Sept. 14 or the morning of Sept. 15.

“Thank God, none of our associates experienced any physical harm,” Jury said. “Most of our affected associates have returned to their homes and many still are without electricity. Regrettably, we have at least several associates whose homes were affected by flooding.”

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