Hurricane Michael: Florida Panhandle dealers feel the brunt of the storm

Home Inside FCNews Hurricane Michael: Florida Panhandle dealers feel the brunt of the storm

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Ken Ryan


Hurricane Michael, which devastated parts of Florida’s Panhandle with 155 mile-per-hour winds, has knocked several flooring retailers offline, shutting down power and water usage while causing extensive water and rain damage.

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Mexico Beach on Oct. 10, devastating that town before extending more than 100 miles inland as a hurricane into southwest Georgia. It also affected areas of North Carolina and Virginia that were still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which took place in late September (FCNews, Sept. 17/24).

Unlike Florence, which halted many distributors’ routes because of record-breaking flooding, Michael was more of a wind event. As a result, flooring wholesalers who serve the Southeast and Florida said they survived relatively unscathed. “We had no buildings impacted during Hurricane Michael,” said Michael Barrett, president and CEO of Haines, the industry’s largest distributor. “We did have an associate in Panama City, Fla., who rode out the storm. He is OK and is currently working from the home of his family in Mobile, Ala.

Hoy Lanning, senior CEO advisor at Haines, said North Carolina is slowly recovering from Hurricane Florence’s high winds and flooding. “With Hurricane Michael right behind it, dropping more rain and flooding, it will be a long rebuilding process.”

Flooring retail businesses in the Panhandle can expect a long rebuilding process as well. A week after the storm hit, many traffic lights still don’t work, and electricity and Internet service remain non-existent. What’s more, there is no running water for many residents.

Among the retailers affected are The Old Fashion Floor Store in Panama City; Carpet Country in Port St. Joe; Carpet Connection, Panama City Beach; Carpet One Floor & Home, Panama City; and CarpetsPlus Color Tile in Panama City.

Kenny Peak, manager of the Carpet Country store, logged on to Facebook to thank everyone who has reached out to check on employees and their families. “We look forward to getting back to serving our community for all your floor covering needs very soon,” he wrote. “We will keep everyone updated on how to contact us once we reopen.”

John Shepard, president of the Carpet One store, described to FCNews a harrowing ordeal as he, his wife, their three children and dog evacuated their Panama City Beach home and hunkered down at the Carpet One store, with everyone gathering inside a bathroom. For more than two hours, the family endured the fury of a major Category 4 hurricane, the largest such storm to ever hit the Panhandle and one of the strongest on record to hit the U.S.

“The suction you felt inside the building during the storm… the pressure in our ears, was amazing. The noise was just unbelievable. We heard all kinds of crashing of street signs and billboards, some being twisted like a pretzel. At one point, the toilet started gurgling, and we were like, ‘Oh God, don’t let the sewage back up.’ I kept thinking, ‘by 2 o’clock it will be over’—the storm started at noon, and we figured it would be two hours for the eyewall to go over us.”

Because they had no power, Shepard’s only line of communication was coming nearly 1,500 miles away in Manchester, N.H., where Deb Giroux, regional membership consultant for Carpet One Floor & Home, provided weather updates. She zoomed in on the Doppler radar over Panama City to text storm coordinates. “Deb is our hero—no doubt about it,” Shepard told FCNews. “Being in that bathroom with no power and only a flashlight and potentially not knowing what was going on … having that weather information from Deb was so valuable. She was like, ‘You’re one-fourth of the way through the eyewall; then, ‘you’re halfway through the eyewall,’ and so on.’ She was giving us minute-by-minute updates, which was awesome.”

The Carpet One store suffered major damage as the skylights were ripped out, allowing torrents of rain to flood the 6,000-square-foot showroom. In addition, Shepard’s bay door was shredded. He estimated the damage to be around $50,000 to $60,000—although he won’t have a final estimate until power is restored. Shepard said it might take until the end of the month before power is restored. No power means running water. “It makes it a challenge to go to the bathroom, but at least we are all safe,” he said.

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