Planet Ford Spring is no stranger to hurricanes. In 2008, Hurricane Ike walloped the dealership in Spring, Texas, about an hour north of Houston. Ike knocked out power for 17 days.
This is the story of how the family-owned dealership learned from the prior disaster so as to lessen Hurricane Harvey's impact.
Faced with impending massive flooding from Harvey, the decision was made Saturday morning to immediately close the Spring dealership, said Shawn Burns, general manager of Planet Ford Spring. The store remained closed Monday and today. Burns told Automotive News that that any decision to reopen Wednesday will hinge on safety and whether roads are passable.
"A lot of people called and said they couldn't get to work, " Burns said. "We don't want to put any employees in harm's way. Some of our employees have had to go through mandatory evacuation."
The dealership's website currently has a prominent red "Sorry, we're closed" sign. Next to it is a statement: "Due to inclement weather, our location is closed. We will reopen as soon as possible to care for all of your automotive needs. For all affected by the storms, please take precautions and stay safe."
When the dealership does re-open and waves of flood-damaged vehicles show up in the service lanes, "we'll prioritize work, open extra hours and run as efficiently as we can," Burns said.
Minor water damage will require carpet removal, drying out the vehicle and the installation of new carpet. In the vast majority of cases, however, Burns said cars will wind up being totaled because of the extensive electronics in today's vehicles. "If you fix a car that had too much water in it, you'll have future problems," he cautioned.
"Battening down the hatches" and moving the dealership's inventory of about 1,500 new Fords and Lincolns and used vehicles to the highest ground on the dealership's lot helped Planet Ford weather the storm in good shape, said Burns.
Determined to avoid another half-month of lost business this time around, the dealership rented three pumps to help drain the water retention pond that collects the lot's rain runoff.
There was one issue: The gasoline-powered pumps had to be refueled every two-and-half hours. Burns praised Planet Ford's veteran full-time maintenance man for volunteering to stay at the store through the stormy weekend, hunkered down in a pickup. The water pumps were started Saturday and operated continuously until Monday morning. "He's the employee that everyone wants and you never wants to lose," Burns said.
The dutiful staffer's name? Loyal "Jack" Walston.