East Coast dealers 'battening down the hatches' for Hurricane Sandy
Photo credit: Reuters
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.
Auto dealers in the Northeast are closely monitoring Hurricane Sandy, which some forecasters predict may become the worst storm to hit the region in more than 100 years.
Sandy's punch may be felt from Virginia to Massachusetts, said Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center. High wind warnings and watches for gusts as strong as 70 miles per hour stretch from Maine to North Carolina and as far west as Ohio, according to the National Weather Service. Flood watches and warnings cover most of the Northeast and mid- Atlantic coasts.
Hurricane force winds of at least 74 mph are expected from Chincoteague, Virginia, to Chatham, Massachusetts, said the hurricane center in Miami.
Sandy's maximum sustained winds were steady at 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour as of 5 p.m. Eastern Sunday, the hurricane center said in an advisory. It was centered about 270 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and about 530 miles south-southeast of New York, moving northeast at 15 mph.
The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association on Friday said dealers are more prepared this time after dealing with Hurricane Irene in August 2011, which killed at least 45 people.
During Irene, dealers outside the flood zones were also affected because of power outages, said Nick Crispe, spokesman for the association. Some of them were out of power for a week and don't want that to happen again.
Several dealers invested in generators for their dealerships in preparation for the next storm.
One New York dealer bought a generator for his home after the storm for $12,000 and estimated a generator for his dealership would cost about three times that amount.
"If you can't sell cars for a week, the cost doesn't look so bad," Crispe said.
The New York dealer association is telling dealers in the Long Island area to prepare to move their vehicles to storage in higher ground.
Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, said: "We've been through storms before. Dealers have a pretty good plan for how to deal with them."
Hurricane Fran hit the state hard in 1996, and many dealers know where to move their vehicles upland if necessary.
In Massachusetts, it's a similar situation.
"They're veterans of storm activity," the state's auto dealers association president, Robert O'Koniewski, said. "We go through something like this about once a year."
He said dealers will make sure their paper records are in a safe place, their computer records are backed up, how to contact employees after business hours and inform employees how they will be paid if the dealerships close for a few days.
Rhode Island dealer Paul Masse is getting a jump on the storm. After hearing on the local news that the storm could knock out power for days, he arranged for generators to back up his two Chevrolet and two Buick-GMC stores.
"We're battening down the hatches so we'll be ready to go," Masse said. "If someone needs an oil change, we'll be here."
The National Auto Dealers Charitable Foundation's emergency relief fund offers emergency assistance to dealership employees who have been affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes. The funds are donated by the dealers who are members of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
After disaster strikes, dealers can apply for emergency funds on behalf of their employees.
Since the fund was established in 1992, nearly $5 million has been given to more than 7,700 dealership employees in need.
Bloomberg contributed to this report