A service manager at a Chevrolet store in Quincy, Fla., was killed at his home as Hurricane Michael battered the state's Panhandle this week, with dealerships and automakers still assessing widespread damage from the powerful Category 4 storm.
Quincy Chevrolet-Buick-GMC, part of the Plattner Automotive Group, said Friday that Steve Sweet was killed Wednesday when a large oak tree smashed through the roof of his home in Gretna, pinning him under the tree. Sweet's wife, Gayle Sweet, an office manager at the store, northwest of Tallahassee, was with him during the accident, USA Today reported.
Hurricane Michael, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, made landfall Wednesday along the Panhandle and continued on a destructive path through Georgia and into the Carolinas and Virgina, demolishing communities and local businesses.
Alan Mankoff, a district service manager for JM&A Group, an F&I services and training provider, said several dealerships in Panama City, Fla., were heavily damaged by the storm.
"The town is in shambles," Mankoff wrote in a message to Automotive News. "Every store got hit hard. Panama City Toyota just finished a rehab and had not had the grand opening yet and it’s destroyed."
Mankoff said the damage caused by Michael is comparable to the widespread destruction resulting from Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that struck Florida and Louisiana in August 1992. It's going to take years to rebuild the area, he said.
Panama City Toyota incurred serious damage, lost power and has been forced to close. A spokeswoman for the store said the roof over the sales department was blown off and that the parts department and showroom suffered flooding and water damage. More than 100 vehicles sustained damage from the storm.
Another Toyota store in Marianna, Fla., also sustained damage to buildings and inventory, said Christie Caliendo, a spokeswoman for JM Family Enterprises, the parent company of Southeast Toyota Distributors, which services the two Toyota stores.