Like others in the area, Cramer was running his Panama City store on generator power as repairs were being made to his roof, windows and a wall that had been knocked out by the hurricane. Cramer, who owns the store with several family members, figured he had another two weeks of cleaning and remediation ahead of him."I'd love for us to be getting it again within next 30-60 days," he said of normal operations. About a third to half of the store's inventory has been damaged, and most of that will be totaled.
Worse, at least 20 of Cramer's 130 employees lost everything in the storm, he said. "And I would say half or better of all of our employees are displaced in some shape or fashion," Cramer said. The dealership is helping them apply for relief funds.
To that end, Florida Automobile Dealers Association President Ted Smith was headed down Interstate 10 from Tallahassee on Friday, Oct. 19, to begin distributing funds to dealerships' employees in Panama City, as well as Marianna, Fla., a small town to the north.
It's part of the Florida Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation, which the association launched after Hurricane Charley hit the state in 2004.
Smith said the generosity shown in wake of the latest storm has been swift, with dealers and their employees throughout Florida making contributions.
Cramer noted the strong sense of community in the hurricane's aftermath.
"Our colleagues, they've reached out and they're not willing to just sell inventory," he said. "They're willing to send their people, they want to write checks to our employees. And it's really awesome to see that in our industry."
Michael struck about a month after Hurricane Florence hit the coast of North Carolina. Florence, which directly caused at least 30 deaths, was a weaker Category 1 storm, but its slow movement and torrential rain caused extensive flooding. Dealerships in the Carolinas reported significant vehicle and facility damage as a result. However, Florence's slow progression gave dealers time to move a lot of inventory to higher ground before the storm hit.