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Staring Down Sandy

Despite heavy odds, distributors and suppliers on the East Coast were not to be out-whacked by Sandy. Contingency plans proved helpful.


On the East Coast this past week, a storm the likes of which has never been seen hit with such brute force that at least 87 people were killed, businesses and schools were shuttered, transportation came to a grinding halt, half of New York City went dark for days. Lower New York City was flooded and without power.  Bridges and tunnels were closed. And if you were able to get into the city when one bridge reopened on Thursday, you better have two more people with you in your car, or you were turned away.

In Levittown, PA, power outages shut down oxygen concentrators, and patients were scrambling for help, calling EMS, hospitals and emergency management.  When the large, electric-powered concentrators fail, patients resort to using small portable oxygen tanks, which empty within a few hours. So many calls were coming into the companies that refill the oxygen tanks looking for refills that they could not keep up. Patients were urged to contact their oxygen supply company to find out about the soonest refill and to consult their doctors to determine if they should be hospitalized.

As bad as it was in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, New Jersey appeared to get the worst of it. Houses in coastal cities were swept away. Phone calls to two distributors located in Sandy’s path have gone unanswered for several days.

I called GAWDA members located in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania to learn how they were coping with the aftereffects of the storm. As of today, Thursday, November 1, some are still without power and phone service. Seaboard Welding Supply, located two miles from the beach in Oakhurst, NJ, had no water damage, but without power, the phones weren’t working, and they were searching near and far for additional generators.  Vice President Richard Nowell said that calls to the company were being transferred to cell phones, and they were receiving requests from emergency management re filling medical oxygen supplies.  Without power, though, they could not generate oxygen.  

Some GAWDA members indicated that their homes were in trouble, as were those of many employees. 

AWISCO has several locations in the New York City area and thankfully, none were impacted. Some employee homes, however, were in trouble. Vic Fuhrman, vice president of sales & marketing, pointed to the dwindling supply of gas, closed roadways, and bustling storefronts shuttered and shut down. “This is something that we will be facing for a lot of years,” Furman says.

These are just a few small examples of the past few days.  The big question remains: When all is said and done, how much impact will Superstorm Sandy have on local businesses and the wider economy? How much has been lost during these days? Disaster modeling company Eqecat estimates Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses. According to the Insurance information Institute, Hurricane Sandy now ranks as the fourth-costliest catastrophe ever in the United States, behind 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the September 11 attacks of 2001, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

With so many of our gases and welding customers feeling the impact, what will this mean for our businesses going forward?


 More on Emergency Prep and Disaster Planning
Awaiting the Storm’s Price Tag

Video:   How Small Businesses Can Rebuild After Sandy 

Distributors Develop Emergency Action Plans

Six Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

PHMSA’s Emergency Response Guidebook


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