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.

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. Three of Elliott Electric’s stores in Texas— in La Marque, 10 minutes outside of Galveston, Pearland, and Galena Park — were without power and operating on generators until the weekend of Sept. 20-21 and Sept. 22.

“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 in the days immediately following the storm was getting fuel, said Fitzgerald. “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.

“We have to be a little more strategic about how we make our deliveries,” said Fitzgerald. We have a night crew at our RDC location finding fuel stations at night and filling up,” he said in the days immediately following the storm. “So that has worked out pretty well for us. But we still had to be 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 started offering 24/7 service from its regional distribution center in Houston, said Fitzgerald.

At Crawford Electric Supply Co. (CESCO), Houston, Craig Levering, the company’s president, said CESCO’s branch in Houston did not suffer any structural damage or water damage. “The hurricane pulled the 15-foot lighted sign off the front of our building and blew it across the street.Other than that, we did not experience any further damage,” he said. Levering said all CESCO employees had been accounted for and that permanent power was restored at CESCO Sept. 22.

All of Graybar Electric Co.’s locations in Hurricane Ike’s path are alright, but the utility power is still out at Graybar’s Freeport and Beaumont, Texas, locations, said Graybar Dallas District Vice President Randy Harwood. Both branches are running on generator power. Beaumont was up and running the day after the storm, and Freeport was up mid-week.

“Our Dallas District works with a contractor that brings in and sets up generators for us,” he said. “It was critical that we get our computers and wire equipment up and running as quickly as possible to meet our customers’ needs. E-mails from local power company estimate that power should be restored by Sept. 24 in the zip code where our Beaumont branch resides. Our Houston branch has its own generator and was up and running for business immediately.”

Victor R. Jury Jr., president and CEO of Summit Electric Supply, Albuquerque, N.M., will donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Ike relief efforts. All four of Summit’s locations in the hurricane-affected Texas cities of Beaumont, Clute, La Porte and Houston escaped major damage and all 116 associates escaped injury. The four Summit locations were open and operating on Sept. 15, including phones and delivery trucks. Houston and Beaumont were on generator power until Sept. 22. Clute city power was restored by mid-morning Sept. 15. La Porte is still on generator power. Summit’s Clute location was the only place in the county to buy generator plugs for four days. People traveled up to 50 miles to buy them when they heard Summit had them.