Two days before Hurricane Sandy descended on the New England shoreline, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a State of Emergency. The next day New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was shutting down the city’s subway system and ordered a mandatory evacuation for citizens residing in low-lying neighborhoods. As word spread about the superstorm’s predicted hurricane-force winds and potential “life-threatening surges,” schools cancelled classes, businesses closed their doors and residents were urged to head home and stay there.
Despite adequate weather warnings given to residents across the region, janitorial suppliers say it was impossible to prepare for the power of the storm.
“I told everybody, ‘We’re prepared, everyone is safe,” says Josephs. “We figured it was going to be a big storm but who can prepare for something of this caliber? It was a storm of unprecedented nature.”
Though Josephs says Rahway didn’t encounter the vast flooding that occurred in places such as Staten Island or the Jersey Shore, he was stunned to see the damage after the storm. A YouTube video posted by a Rahway resident shows the town’s tree-lined neighborhoods littered with braches and debris, and matches Joseph’s account of the hundreds of the toppled trees that crushed residents’ cars, split houses, broke sidewalks, lifted up roadways and entangled the suburb’s power lines.
“It was awful driving around the street,” Josephs says. “To see what the neighbors had to deal with was awful. ” Somehow, neither his home nor his business was damaged in the storm.
Alan Schwartz, owner of Advantage Vacuum, also in Rahway, N.J., says he and his staff tried desperately to stay one step ahead of the hurricane but the company still suffered about $30,000 in losses. Still, Schwartz insists the company was fortunate.
The media’s intense coverage of the impending storm, and the constant stream of severe weather warnings, prompted the company to double down their preparation efforts. A few days before the hurricane, Advantage Vacuum shipped 12 skids of product out of state, moved inventory off the warehouse floor onto shelves six feet high, and removed everything electrical, such as computers, copiers and fax machines.
There was good reason behind the business’ proactive approach. Just 14 months earlier Advantage Vacuum had been struck by another tempest — Irene. The Category 3 hurricane flooded a nearby river and sent more than 40 inches of water rushing into the business.
“Irene was horrendous,” Schwartz says. “We lost six to eight percent of our inventory, all of our computers, office furniture…we ran our business out of our home for three weeks.”
For Schwartz, it was a lesson learned the hard way. The company didn’t have flood insurance at the time, and had to replace their losses completely out of pocket.
This time around, the business was insured and although two forklifts were lost to water damage, Schwartz says the company fared much better.
“If we hadn’t of gotten those vacuums and skids out of here we would have had much more significant damage,” he says. “We had forewarning.”
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POSTED ON: 4/12/2013