More than a week after Hurricane Florence first made landfall, the National Weather Service on Sept. 23 issued a new round of flood warnings for several southeastern counties in North Carolina and northeastern counties in South Carolina.
“We’ve already had whole towns that have been flooded and evacuated. And now it’s a second wave of devastation and displacement for us,” said Sims Floyd, executive vice president of the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association. “A lot of people are out of their homes. A lot of dealership employees are in and out trying to take care of their homes, so we’re dealing with that. And it looks like we’re going to deal with that for a while more.”
Bob Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, estimates nearly 300 dealership employees in the storm’s path have sustained some level of personal property damage from the hurricane, wind, rainfall and subsequent floods.
“You don’t think of Fayetteville [N.C.] as a flood prone area, but it is just getting hammered with flooding right now. The wind damage wasn’t as bad as projected. The flood damage was much worse than expected,” Glaser said. “The biggest thing we’re running into down here are the two major thoroughfares through North Carolina. Interstates 95 and 40 are closed because of flood water. It could be five to six feet under water in places along a 30- to 40-mile stretch.”
Glaser added that the NCADA is planning to reactivate its disaster relief fund, which along with the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund will provide financial assistance to dealership employees in the Carolinas who sustain personal property damage.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the effects from Hurricane Florence will continue this week. Rivers are expected to rise again and crest nearly as high as the first time. More than 600 roads are closed statewide, and about 56,000 homes and businesses were without power as of Sept. 21.
Michael Alford, president of Marine Chevrolet-Cadillac in Jacksonville, N.C., lost power and reopened his dealership on Sept. 19 after being closed for a week. He said 28 out of 130 employees were seriously impacted by the hurricane and have not returned to work.
“A substantial number of our employees heeded the warning and evacuated. Many of them have not been able to get back because of the flood situation. Others are without shelter and we’ve been working on getting folks relocated. Everybody’s had damage of some sort,” said Alford, who represents new-car dealers from North Carolina on NADA’s board of directors. “A lot of downed trees are blocking the roads. Very limited perishable food items are available at grocery stores. Fuel is still a precious commodity.”
While flooding in the surrounding counties are expected to continue this week from overflowing rivers, Alford said the dealership has become a refuge of sorts.
“The dealership is a place where people can hang out, get a cool drink and take in some air conditioning. We’re providing courtesy diagnostic inspections for folks concerned about their vehicles,” added Alford, the 2013 TIME Dealer of the Year. “We’re trying to support the community in any way we can.”
Dealership employees affected by any natural disaster can apply here for financial assistance from the NADA Foundation.