Hurricane Ivan Smashes Gulf Coast And Damages Distributors’ Branches

Sept. 24, 2004
When Hurricane Ivan slammed into the Gulf Coast Sept. 17, it damaged electrical distributors’ branches in Pensacola, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and Pascagoula, Miss.

When Hurricane Ivan slammed into the Gulf Coast Sept. 17, it damaged electrical distributors’ branches in Pensacola, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and Pascagoula, Miss.

Ivan, which came on the heels of Hurricanes Charley and Frances, ripped the roof off Stuart C. Irby’s branch in Pensacola, one of the areas hit hardest in the storm. It also damaged Stuart C. Irby’s branches in Mobile, Ala., and Pascagoula, Miss.

“We had the roof blown off, a wall ripped off the side of the building and extensive water damage,” said Eddie Moak, vice president, utility, Stuart C. Irby. “Our Pensacola employees also had immediate needs with their personal property.”

At Mayer Electric Supply’s branch in Pensacola, the storm blew out overhead doors, bent in several interior walls and tore down the fence, said Glenn Goedecke, Alabama division manager, Mayer Electric Supply, Birmingham, Ala.

Stuart C. Irby Co. sent 12 employees from its headquarters in Jackson, Miss., to Pensacola to begin restoration on the branch. The men traveled completely self-sufficient, taking generators, construction material, food and sleeping accommodations.

“These 12 men went in to repair our branch and get it functional,” said Moak.

The company operated its branches in Pensacola, Mobile and Pascagoula with generators several days after the storm, and serviced customers in areas affected by the hurricane from other branch locations in Jackson, Miss.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Wildwood, Fla. During the restoration efforts, the company has seen a big demand for automatic splices, compression connectors and service connectors, Moak said.

Because Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast so soon after the other two hurricanes, in many cases, the manufacturing and distribution supply chains have been strained, he said. To get the necessary utility products needed to restore power, Stuart C. Irby has also relied on its affiliation with the North American Association of Utility Distributors (NAAUD), an association of 17 utility distributors that pool inventory during natural disasters and ship products to members in market areas experiencing power outages. Moak is vice president of NAAUD.

With its Pensacola branch damaged and only one road open leading into Pensacola open, Mayer Electric shipped product to Pensacola from its Dothan, Ala., location, said Mayer Electric’s Goedecke.

“The whole area in Pensacola was very severely hit,” he said. “They had a couple bridges out and hospitals without power. We shipped material from our Dothan location — four, five, six trucks of utility equipment and other equipment to that location.”

Mayer Electric began preparing for the storm several days before the storm hit by stocking up on key utility products. “Basically anything that had to do with the service entrance — power panels, service- entrance cable, weatherheads, generators, and aluminum cable,” Goedecke said. “All the equipment that goes along with that.”

Mayer Electric’s Pensacola branch manager discovered the damage that had been done by Hurricane Ivan the morning after the storm went through. While the company planned to operate the branch manually, one of the biggest challenges was getting enough employees to serve customers.

While Hurricanes Charley and Frances devastated much of Florida, Ivan was the deadliest storm since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, causing at least 70 deaths in the Caribbean and 33 in the United States. Ivan knocked out power to more than 1.5 million customers in four states. All three hurricanes have damaged electrical distributors’ operations (See EM, Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 issues.)