Initial reports indicate there was little serious damage sustained by the industry’s East Coast dealers as a result of hurricane Isabel. However, the powerful storm certainly disrupted business schedules on a variety of levels for a relatively short period of time.
Along with other public and private businesses and organizations the storm forced the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association to close their offices Thursday and Friday (Sept. 18 and 19) it passed over the Washington D.C. area.
Down the coast in South Carolina, RV dealer Kent Lester, president of Holiday Kamper Co., LLC, having determined he was uninsured for flood and storm damage, moved 220 new and used units inland from his Myrtle Beach store, which is barely a mile from the water. Lester moved towable and motorized units, valued at roughly $5 million, to Holiday Kamper stores in Charleston and Darlington, S.C., where they would be far less likely to be threatened.
Charleston is about 100 miles south of Myrtle Beach, while Darlington is about 80 miles inland from Myrtle Beach.
It was a huge task involving all of Lester’s 150 employees. But in the end, the Category 2 hurricane veered north, hitting North Carolina instead before moving north.
Lester considers himself lucky.
“We had no damage, no wind damage,” he said. “We just lost a couple of days of business.”
Elsewhere, the story was similar. “We did very well,” said Art Tyndall, sales manager for Crisp RV Center in Chocowinity, N.C., which lost 80% of its inventory to hurricane Floyd in 1999. “Typically, when these things come in, we flood. We’re still assessing the wind damage.”
Representatives for several dealers along the North Carolina coast, including Sandcastle Motors and RVs in Morehead City, Howard RV Center and Rex & Sons RV, both in Wilmington, also told RVBUSINESS.COM they got through the storm unscathed.
Gary Godwin, general sales manager for Hawley’s Camping Center in Fayetteville, N.C., said his dealership survived Isabel’s 50- and 60-mile-per-hour winds in the North Carolina interior because he folded down his popup trailers so no canvass was exposed, closed his motorhomes’ ceiling vents and retracted the slideouts. He also parked his units in clusters to better withstand the winds.
As of this morning (Sept. 19), however, it still was too early to fully assess Isabel’s impact on RV dealers and campgrounds across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. “I’m not hearing anything drastic at this point,” said Rebecca Lenington, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association, though she noted that power was out in several areas, which could impede the reporting of damage and other storm-related information.
Tom Gerken, vice president of marketing for Lewiston, Maine-based International Insurance Services, Inc., which markets Evergreen USA campground insurance, agreed it was too early to assess Isabel’s impact.
“We received many calls last week seeking advice relative to preparation for the storm and what actions could be taken to minimize damages,” he said, adding that his company also received numerous calls from campground operators wanting to verify how much insurance coverage they had.
After experiencing a close call with hurricane Isabel, Lester said, he planned to obtain flood insurance for at least a couple of his locations.