HOUSTON — Hurricane Ike battered East Texas at midnight on Saturday, September 13, 2008.
Eyes across America were on the non-stop coverage of the devastation. Many who had fled from New Orleans after Katrina to make new homes in Houston were now again faced another cruel natural disaster. With a hurricane, the warnings come early. After Katrina, many were not willing to brave it out and see what happens. Mass evacuations occurred when weather forecasters started predicting where Ike would make landfall.
When the storm struck, the town of Galveston was annihilated. Like Katrina, homes were washed away and lives were lost. Photos of devastation and miracles crossed e-mail boxes nationwide. The economy of Houston stopped dead while evacuated families waited to hear if they were returning to former homes. Meanwhile, those who were not evacuated waited. Electricity was lost. Water was no longer potable. News came over battery operated radios.
Some operators were more fortunate than others. Richard Mishriky, owner of CTI Limousine Service in Houston, counts himself among them. His company didn’t suffer any catastrophic loss. He didn’t lose his facility or vehicles, but he was stranded by the floods when his office ended up on a temporary island. Richard shut his business down for eight days. He spent two weeks without power and had to tough it out living with his in laws. “I love my in-laws but two weeks – ugh,” he said.
CTI’s offices have 18 work stations. Richard, in advance of the storm, bought a generator. He put into place his emergency plan, and for the most part, everything went as planned — almost.
“Only two work stations at a time can operate off of the generator,” Richard said. “We were taking turns using the computers. We couldn’t go anywhere. There really wasn’t anywhere to go. We switched the phones to our cell phones. Everything pretty much just stopped.”
Richard’s building had some damage to the roof, but nothing was flooded and no vehicles were damaged. But his business ground to a halt.
“What you don’t think about when you buy insurance is ‘Can I get insurance if my business is interrupted?’” Richard said. “My insurance didn’t cover really anything. I couldn’t work even if I wanted to. All of the highways were flooded and we couldn’t get to the airport.”
But Richard isn’t bellyaching. He knows he was much better off than others. “Small operations were hit harder than the larger ones,” he said. “The larger ones were able to get back on their feet faster.”
Richard estimates that his business lost about $350,000 based on the same period the year before. CTI remained working on a generator for three weeks. He counts his blessings because some of the business was just pushed back to December and January.
Richard cautions other companies who live in hurricane-prone regions to learn from the experiences of others. Horror stories were told about misuse of generators.
“They can be very dangerous,” Richard warned. “The news was full of stories about them blowing up.” He tells everyone to start early and take the predictions seriously. “Better safe than sorry” is his motto. CTI’s offices had the doors taped. All of the vehicles were brought indoors, and those that couldn’t be brought indoors were secured at a building that was covered nearby. “Secure your computer and keep a back up server at a co-location,” he said. Once things clear, you will be able to plug right back in.
“There are many things that happen that you just don’t expect,” Richard said. “Gas stations that didn’t have generators couldn’t pump fuel. Those that did had long lines. Our chauffeurs are paid by the trip. When you don’t have trips, they don’t get paid. We had to help some until the work came back. A crisis like this brings out the best in your team. It shows their true character. Every company in a hurricane area should be prepared to not have income anywhere from a month to six weeks.”
Richard said he was proud of the chauffeured transportation industry and how the NLA and industry members stepped up to help operators. “It’s important to be part of the industry family which for us is the NLA. Through them we knew that the industry cared about us.”
Source: Linda Moore, LCT Magazine