The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) called off its annual meeting scheduled to begin Thursday (Sept. 9) after Florida was struck by Hurricane Frances over the Labor Day holiday – the second major hurricane to hit the state in three weeks.
More than 250 people had been expected at FRVTA’s 24th Annual Convention Sept. 9-12 at the Clearwater Beach Hilton, where the association already had anticipated reduced attendance because of Hurricane Charley’s destruction just three weeks ago.
Initial reports from campgrounds and RV dealerships indicated Frances didn’t cause nearly as much damage as Charley inflicted when it struck the Gulf Coast Aug. 13.
Nonetheless, the decision to cancel the meeting, which already had been moved from the Sanibel Island area north to the Tampa suburb of Clearwater, was made during a Tuesday conference call of FRVTA’s executive committee.
“They decided that with all the debris on the roads and people not being able to get gasoline in some places yet, it would be tough to get together and have a convention,” said David Kelly, FRVTA director of marketing. “And, at this point, trying to get another date in the fall would be tough to do.”
Kelly said FRVTA, which represents RV dealerships, manufacturers, campgrounds and suppliers, had received no reports of major damage at any member facilities.
“This storm wasn’t near the intensity of Hurricane Charley,” he said.
Still, El Monte RV, a California-based RV rental company, moved 35 Class A and Class C motorhomes into the storm area on Labor Day as rental units to be used for temporary housing.
“As much as we like the vacation business, these people are in greater need right now,” said Joe Laing, director of marketing.
El Monte staged the units in Savannah, Ga., prior to the storm after bringing them into the area from New York, Texas and Miami. Laing said most are being rented at a discounted rate for longer than a month.
Meanwhile, Lazydays RV Supercenter in Seffner, was among the 3 million Florida electric customers experiencing service disruptions on Tuesday.
“Everything was OK,” said Stewart Schaeffer, chief marketing officer. “But we didn’t have electricity in the main building where the administrative work is done. There was no damage to units.”
Randy Thompson, executive vice president of FreedomRoads LLC, said seven affiliated dealerships in Florida and Southern Alabama came through the storm without significant problems.
“We were very concerned, but it looks like we came out in pretty good shape,” Thompson said. “Some of the concerns about potential damage were overstated.”
Chicago-based Manufactured Home Communities Inc. did report two if its properties in Vero Beach suffered significant flooding, but most Florida campgrounds and RV parks appear to have no serious damage.
“Basically, most of the parks came out fine,” said Bobby Cornwall, acting president of the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC)
“Many parks had some tree damage, and some were without electricity, but most of the parks I talked to this morning said they had more damage form Charley than Frances. Overall, it could have been a lot worse. Everybody is relieved.”
Cornwall said the association has not been able to contact a number of parks on the eastern coast, from Palm Beach to New Smyrna, where large areas remained without electricity.
As of Tuesday afternoon hurricane Frances is reported to have killed 10 people and caused $2 billion to $4 billion in damages.