Florida’s Electrical Industry Responds To Hurricane Charley With Donations and Aid

Aug. 27, 2004
When Hurricane Charley ripped into Florida’s West Coast on Aug. 13, it flattened one electrical distributor’s location and tore off part of the roofs of two distributors’ branch locations.

When Hurricane Charley ripped into Florida’s West Coast on Aug. 13, it flattened one electrical distributor’s location and tore off part of the roofs of two distributors’ branch locations.

The Category 4 hurricane downed power lines, leaving 1 million people without power. At press time, more than 400,000 customers remained without power. Utility officials said it could be up to three weeks before service to some could be restored.

As it stormed into Charlotte Harbor, Hurricane Charley flattened Rexel Consolidated Electric Supply’s branch in Port Charlotte and damaged the roofs of Graybar Electric Supply and Rexel-Consolidated Electric’s locations in Fort Myers, Fla. Rexel declined to comment on specifics of the damage to its two locations, but said last week it was getting its operations back up and running.

Although Graybar Electric Co.’s Fort Myers location lost part of its roof in the storm, the company was operating the branch on Aug. 14, according to Bob Lyons, Graybar’s Tampa district vice president. Graybar was also operating its Tampa branch and its zone warehouse in Tampa on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15.

Graybar had an additional supply of generators shipped in for customer and employee use. The generators were available Aug. 14.

Graybar began helping its customers prepare for the storm on Aug. 12, the day before the hurricane hit land. With state officials expecting Hurricane Charley to hit the densely populated Tampa Bay area, the company shipped four truckloads of material to Florida Power & Light’s service center in Riviera Beach. The company also shipped a truckload of material into Fort Myers. Equipment supplied to utilities included guy strand, hardware of all kinds, conductors and automatic wedge clamps. Contractors were buying portable cord for generator hookups, service entrance cable, weather heads, mast arms and risers.

Graybar also serviced some of the municipal and cooperative utilities out of its Tampa branch. It supplied a dedicated truck to Miller Electric for the work they were doing in Punta Gorda.

Graybar is opening a location in Punta Gorda on Aug. 30 to service the area that sustained the most hurricane damage.

Hughes Supply’s branch in Fort Myers did not suffer any damage to its operations and still was operating without power several days after the storm. Hughes Supply was quick to send a truckload of supplies to Charlotte County early in the week following the storm and at press time was preparing to send two semi truckloads of materials to one of its electrical contracting customer’s facilities in Charlotte County.

Hughes Supply has made three contributions to disaster relief organizations in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. The company donated $25,000 to The American Red Cross, $25,000 to The Salvation Army and $50,000 to the Hughes Supply Foundation. All monies are specifically earmarked to assist in the rebuilding and recovery efforts in Florida.

Red Simpson Inc. (RSI) is a subsidiary of Pike Electric Inc., Alexandria, La., and one of the 50 largest electrical contractors in the nation. Pike Electric and RSI have deployed approximately 2,000 line workers throughout the state to help with storm recovery. The workers have been deployed along the path the hurricane took.

Ron Schenk, Red Simpson’s director of marketing, said the cities around Charlotte Harbor (Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and North Port) were the hardest hit by the storm.

“Some overhead distribution systems there are beyond repair, and they must be replaced,” he said.

RSI and Pike Electric also have crews based in Arcadia, Fla., another hard-hit area, working the restoration, said Schenk.

Even as far inland as Orlando, large trees toppled and took powerlines with them.

Schenk said he surveyed Hurricane Andrew’s damage back in 1992 and he believes Hurricane Charley’s damage to be possibly not as intense, but more widespread. Charley’s damage will possibly approach the cost of Andrew in property damage in 2004 damage, he said. State authorities and the utilities were better prepared this time and recovery should be quicker.

Chuck Hopper, vice president of Data: Comm Electronics, a structured wiring and components manufacturer in Norcross, Ga., said the eye of the hurricane passed over his house in Punta Gorda. The storm wrecked his boat and did some minimal damage to his house. Hopper said he expected to be without power for about 10 days. Bill Bannon, a retired Kansas City area rep who lives near Hopper, still has water and power at his house, and Hopper was taking showers there until his water came back on.