Three years after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast braced itself once again, this time for Hurricane Ike, which created a path of destruction and flooding from Texas northeastward across the U.S. midsection this past weekend. The category 2 storm, with winds at 110 mph, was the sixth storm to make landfall in the United States this year, and reports estimate it caused $27 billion in damages.
SNEWS® checked in with outdoor and fitness retailers and companies to see how folks fared. Those we spoke with said they started getting ready for the storm on Wednesday and Thursday, boarding up windows, laying down plastic, elevating equipment, etc., hoping to avoid water damage. Some businesses closed Friday through the weekend, with some opening Monday, while others waited for power to be restored.
>> Business dropped off Thursday for Fitness Unlimited as area residents prepared to get out of town or board up their houses, said Stan Terry, president of the Texas fitness retail chain. It has seven Texas locations, including stores in Houston, Katy, Webster and Humble, with about 35 employees.
Several employees left work to take care of their homes, but since the storm, repairs have been minimal with some water damage due to flooding. Displaced workers are staying with friends and family, and none are in shelters.
When we talked to Terry on Monday, he said the business was closed, but added, "We'll be up and running again as soon as we get power. That should be any day now."
The shop in Galveston could be without electricity for more than two weeks, he said. Its Webster location is nearest the coast, and electrical poles are down all around town.
"Baytown was the hardest hit. Our Webster store is 19 miles away," Terry said. "We have a computer up and running now, but we're on generator power only. The electricity could be out for two weeks or longer.
"All in all, we came out better than expected. In a situation like this, you expect the worst, but it could have been lot worse. I know that we had several windows blown in, and we don't have AC or electricity, but I think we're doing OK. We should be rockin' and rollin' again as soon as the power comes back on," he told SNEWS.
>> Outdoor retailer REI's Houston-Willowbrook store, which has about 35 employees, opened for business on Sunday, while its fellow Houston store on Westheimer Road, with about 70 employees, stayed closed waiting for power to be restored.
"We didn't have much damage, but we're pretty much sold out of the things you need in a situation like this such as flashlights, lanterns, stove fuel, and dehydrated food," store manager Brad Veale told SNEWS on Monday, adding that he expected a supplies replenishment in a day or so.
While a few of his employees stayed with family to weather the storm, no one had to move to a shelter. "We checked in with everyone and there were no injuries, and there was no catastrophic property damage," he said.
"For now we have electricity, which is good. This is an event that's affecting our entire community. But, fortunately, here we have power and air conditioning, so it's a great place for people to congregate," he added. "We're looking forward to helping Houston get on its feet."
>> With 13 fitness stores in the Texas area and about 40 employees, Busy Body had two stores that experienced damage, which was limited to broken windows and water-soaked carpets. Jimmy Alyea, marketing director for Busy Body, said all its employees were fine and their homes were starting to get power, "but it's going to be two weeks to a month before things will start to get back to normal."
While all Busy Body stores opened again on Monday, customer traffic has been slow. "Broken windows you can fix. But what we can't fix is no business because people aren't coming into our stores. People only care about food and water and power. There are barely even grocery stores open now. Right now, I'm sitting in an empty store with just emergency power," Alyea told us Tuesday.
"We've been profitable since we opened in '92. We're financially sound. We'll make it through this because of the strength of our company and our leadership," he added.
To keep us posted on the affects of Hurricane Ike on you, your employees and your business, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.