A Florida RV dealer caught in the middle of Hurricane Charley is asking that out-of-state dealers send service technicians to Southwest Florida to help with storm damage.
“We need service techs and body guys,” Al Blackwell, owner of Camper Depot Inc., Punta Gorda, told RV Business. “We had service calls yesterday but we can’t get to them. We have been focusing on getting operational so that we can get units to people who need homes.”
Although more than 500,000 homes remained without electricity, power was restored at 9 a.m. Friday (Aug. 20) at Camper Depot, an RV dealership about five miles from downtown Punta Gorda, where destruction from the hurricane seemed most severe.
“Part of the roof came off, and we lost a bay door and some windows,” Blackwell said. “We had a lot of damage to units on the yard, and several were totaled. One of our problems is the guy next door sells storage buildings, and they came over here like missiles. We literally had to push those out of the way with a backhoe so we could get to the RVs on the lot.”
Lance Wilson, executive director of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), said it appeared that the most heavily damaged dealership from the storm was Dusty’s Camper World, a FreedomRoad affiliated store in Bartow, which now has estimated damage to be in the $750,000 range.
“We got more damage than we originally thought,” said General Manager Terry Crum. “I haven’t heard of any other places with that much damage at all.”
Meanwhile, according to the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC), four campgrounds – three in Punta Gorda and one on Sanibel Island – have yet to be heard from. “We have no clue about the ones we haven’t been able to get in touch with,” said Bobby Cornwall, acting Florida ARVC president.
The most severely hit parks appeared to be on Estero Island, where the community of Fort Myers Beach is located.
“A lot of parks in the path of the storm in that area had some damage, and the Red Coconut (campground) was severely damaged,” said Florida ARVC President Dick Whalen, owner of Dunedin RV Resort, Dunedin.