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Glass companies rush to serve customers after devastating Southern storms

Post Time:May 02,2011Classify:Industry NewsView:74

Photo by DigitalGlobe. Satellite image from April 29 of the path of the tornado that went through Tuscaloosa, Ala.A residential area in tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa.

Glass companies in the South are responding to a string of powerful storms and tornados that devastated parts of the region last week, killing about 350 people in seven states. Immediately after the storms pushed throughthe area, glass firms, even those left without power and telephone service, began to service customers, according to local owners.

A contract glazier in southeastern Virginia reported significant damage in the area, and Frank Nelson, president of Nelson Glass Co., Birmingham, Ala., called the storms "devastating." "It will be two years before this is straightened out," Nelson said. "The damage is terrible in so many different places." Since the storm passed, the company has been busy with board-ups and ordering materials for replacements.

Among the hardest hit areas was Tuscaloosa, Ala., where a tornado spanning one mile wide cut through the city. Coral Industries lostone building,while 15-20 of its employees lost their homes, according to the company's Lewis McAllister. Fortunately, everyone escaped the tornado without major injury. "We have some bumps and bruises, but no fatalities. Thank the Lord,"McAllister reported. At press time, Coral was in the process of moving all operations previously housed in the destroyed facility to its main building, while it located another warehouse. Despite the damage, the company is fully operational. McAllister is asking customers to contact their salesman or customer service to check on the status of any orders or deliveries.

The exec is also asking the glass industry to helpthe Tuscaloosa community. "The devastation is indescribable," he said. "We need everybody's support for Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama. This is a long way from being over," he told Glass Magazine.

Glass Doctor has numerous franchise locations in and around the affected areas, including in Tuscaloosa, where about 5,000 properties have been damaged or destroyed, according to AFP news service. "It's just devastation," said Jerry Dickerson, owner of Glass Doctor of Tuscaloosa, as well as Glass Doctor of Birmingham. "On the auto glass side, we are just overwhelmed at our locations. On the flat glass side, so many places that were hit are closed off. You can't even get in." The employees and the company's facilities are all OK, Dickerson said.

Tim Born, owner of Glass Doctor of Rome, Ga., saw the tornado go over the shop. "I was standing in the shop looking up at the clouds, and they were just swirling," he said. "We were so fortunate that we weren't hit directly." Since the storm hit, the shop has been slammed with auto glass work. "Right now, the biggest issue is the baseball sized hail that hit a couple of towns north. We have two vans there now doing windshields and back glass," he said.

Glass Doctor of Knoxville, Tenn., has also seen a deluge of auto glass business, said owner Dwight Jones. Since the storm, "we have installed 97 windshields between two people," as of Friday, Jones said. "We hired another technician today."

While the storms caused commercial and residential damage in many areas, glass shop owners haven't seen as much business for flat glass replacements. "There is so much property devastation—trees on houses, people without power, telephone. These people are just digging out right now. I think it will be two or three weeks before we start seeing residential business," said Don Anderson, owner of Glass Doctor of Chattanooga, Tenn. "On the commercial side we are starting to get a few calls for things like storefront glass."

Jones said insurance claims often delay calls for residential and commercial work. "People can do an auto claim themselves. If you have damage in a home, an adjuster has to come out to look," Jones said.

The storm left a number of shops without electricity and telephone service, forcing owners to discover creative solutions in order to continue to serve customers. "It has been absolutely chaotic," Anderson said. "While we had no physical damage to property, vans or buildings, we lost electric service for three and a half days, along with Internet and telephone." Anderson had calls forwarded to his cell phone and bought a mobile broadband device to get back online. "We pulled the van close to the building and used the van's inverter to power the computer and printer in the shop," Anderson said.

Born also relied on inverters to provide the shop with power. "We were using inverters on work trucks to power our phone system so we could use the phones," said Tim Born, owner of Glass Doctor of Rome, Ga. The shop lost phone service shortly after that, but not before "we called AT&T and had them forward all calls to my cell, so we could get everything done."

Anderson recommends other glass companies learn from this experience and have a disaster preparedness plan. "I was learning as I went. I strongly emphasize that people have a plan in place," he said. "Know you may need a generator, wireless access to Internet and charged batteries—all of our techs use battery powered tools, and every battery was dead."

Shop owners say supply has not yet been affected. "Most of our glass suppliers are out of Atlanta. While the storm went through Georgia, it didn't[affect] our suppliers," Nelson said.

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Source: http://www.glassmagazine.com/news-item/commercial/glass-companies-rush-serve-customers-after-devastating-southern-storms-118086Author:

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