Robert Weinmann headed to Louisiana and Mississippi late last week to see what's left of his three dealerships. Hurricane Katrina hit them all.
"I went to the bank," Weinmann told Automotive News from Atlanta, where he and his family fled from their home in New Orleans before the storm struck two weeks ago. "I got a whole wad of cash. I'm going to go down there and get things going."
Weinmann has stores that sell Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles in Gulfport and Bay St. Louis, Miss. He owns a Ford dealership in New Orleans. Those areas were among Katrina's worst victims.
The hurricane - the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history - did major damage to more than 200 dealerships in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Across the storm's path, dealers stunned by the scope of the destruction to their businesses and their communities are struggling to regroup and regain contact with their employees. Many are wondering whether their insurance will cover their losses, and how quickly they can begin to rebuild their inventories and facilities.
Some dealerships already are back in business. Floodwater and high winds destroyed others. Many affected dealers have gotten no closer to their stores than an aerial view on a computer screen. Thousands of their employees remain unaccounted for.
Dollar estimates of the damage to those dealerships are hard to come by. Insurers say they still are having trouble getting adjusters to some areas that the storm hit hardest.