When Hurricane Harvey hit the Southeast part of Texas during the weekend of August 25-27, many small towns along the coast were utterly devastated and destroyed.
However, the most damage was sustained in Houston due to the city's large size and denser population. Homes, vehicles and businesses were flooded, and at least 45 Houston lives were lost as Harvey unleashed its fury on the Lone Star State.
Harvey hit the Texas coast on Friday evening as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds as high as 130 mph, ravaging the coastline. Houston residents awoke on Sunday to flooding that turned roads into rivers.
John Kopriva, President of the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA), shared, "We normally get about 50 inches of rain annually in Houston, but during Harvey, we got 53 inches in just a few days."
Kopriva's shop had 3 feet of water in the back of the building, but fortunately, he had moved all his customers' vehicles to the front of the building, and neither his nor his children's homes sustained damage.
Others were not so lucky. Several Houston area dealerships were completely flooded with all inventory lost; however, on the bright side, no casualties have been reported in the automotive community.
Many shop and dealership employees, as well as the general Houston population, have experienced major property losses, with homes and vehicles suffering severe damages or being completely destroyed.
Greg Luther, one of HABA's Directors, noted, "A few guys in our shop had personal damage, and none have flood insurance, but employers are being as helpful and understanding as possible. Also, the National Automobile Dealers Association stepped in with some donations to help them.
“Harvey damaged 140,000 homes and at least 280,000 vehicles in Harris County alone, plus half a dozen other counties were impacted by the floods, and over 80 percent of the flooded homes don't have flood insurance. Still, it's amazing how fast the city is recovering."
Jill Tuggle, Executive Director of the Auto Body Association of Texas (ABAT), shared, "In the days immediately following the hurricane, many people were unable to get to work due to flooded roads and highways. Some of the water has since receded, and some people are able to return to work, but we haven't gotten word on specific shops and how much damage was sustained. I can't imagine the emotional toll this has taken on business owners and team members alike. Many are still trying to assess the damage done to their homes, remove debris and water from damaged surfaces, and determine what type of insurance coverages they have---or don't have---all while trying to make sure they can continue to earn a paycheck to replace basic necessities and feed their families. That's a large burden to bear."
Luckily, most ABAT shops are located in areas that received minimal impact from the storm, but the association has decided to donate all proceeds from raffle sales during August's Texas Auto Body Trade Show to Harvey Relief and will be organizing a campaign to help in the upcoming weeks alongside HABA and CIF.
HABA's Legislative Advisor Larry Cernosek estimated that around 500,000 vehicles were flooded in the Houston Metropolitan area, but "the biggest problem is insurance companies are writing $900 estimates that barely cover towing and require supplements, arguments and complaints to fix these cars people bring in to be repaired. The insurance companies should work with the shops that do the repairs, but it's just getting worse every day."
Debris broke the windows of Cernosek’s shop, allowing 6 inches of rain to get in, but he easily pumped it out. He also lost some personal property, a boat and jet skis, during the storm, but knows that others had it much worse, with up to 6 feet of water being reported in some homes.
Because of the sheer volume of damaged vehicles and the subsequent number of rental cars needed, the repair process has been slowed down while rental cars are being transported to Texas in an attempt to meet demands. Although 18-wheelers are bringing more supplies hourly, the list of customers waiting for rental car availability keeps growing.
Kopriva shared, “The number of damaged and flooded vehicles continues to rise. As flood waters recede, more cars are being discovered, straining the availability of rental cars. Repairers have back logs of customers waiting to drop off their vehicle for repair, but not until a rental is made available.”
Traffic is also horrendous, according to Kopriva, who says roads are overloaded, but no one seems to know why. Due to the increased traffic, there have been more accidents, but the lack of available rental cars continues to be an inconvenience for consumers. Also, due to Harvey's destructive path, several large oil refineries have been closed, causing a gas shortage felt across the state, as well as increased prices.