Glass Shops Up and Down the East Coast Prepare for Irene

By Sahely Mukerji

Glass and glazing companies along the East Coast are preparing for the hurricane. Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency, as Hurricane Irene swung north yesterday. The storm is forecast to sweep over the Outer Banks, N.C., overnight tonight, and advance into the Washington, D.C., area beginning Saturday afternoon. State troopers, the Red Cross and the National Guard are in place to deal with the storm’s aftermath in North Carolina. At least 65 million people are estimated to be in the path of Irene, according to an article in The Washington Post.

The storm will impact coastal regions from the Outer Banks to New England, and interior sections of the Mid-Atlantic, including Richmond, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, according to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in the Outer Banks. New York City will shut down the entire train and bus system at noon Saturday.

“[Our] company has sent updated vendor contact lists to all branches, and insurance reminders with contact information for all employees,” says Russell D. Nails, area manager of Binswanger Glass in Charlotte, N.C. “[We have] informed national accounts of the fact we have assets in place to full fill their needs. [We also have] updated the emergency response employee numbers.”

Other than its Norfolk, Va., location (representatives of which were not available to comment) all of Binswanger eastern locations are inland, says Art Rouse, area administrative manager of Binswanger Glass, Charlotte. “Today we are preparing for tropical storm force winds, which may occur as far inland as Charlotte,” he says. “If the coast is devastated as it was in Hurricanes Hugo [in September 1989] and Floyd [September 1999], it will be several days before the emergency services clear outside agencies to come in to clean up and repair. Binswanger Glass has emergency response teams that are in place and will be ready to go as soon as needed. We have 60-plus branches to draw from and are ready to assist with auto and commercial glass replacements.”

Says Oliver Stepe, senior vice president of YKK AP in Austell, Ga.: “YKK AP has three facilities that are in the potential path of Hurricane Irene: Greensboro, N.C., Baltimore and Boston. These facilities are far enough off the coast and/or outside of the direct impact zone of the hurricane to anticipate significantly adverse wind or water conditions. However, power outages are a concern and we are implementing standard business operating protocols related to back up systems to assure business continuity.

“Additionally, employees at these facilities and also in geographic sales territories closer to the impact zones of the hurricane are offered ample liberal leave to focus on the immediate needs of their families.

“We are also hearing that the glazing contractor community in the affected regions are preparing for a surge in the demand for board-ups and glass replacement during and after the hurricane,” Stepe says.

Ace Glass in Columbia, S.C., is an hour from the coast, and has a lot of contract glazing jobs on the coast. “Early this week, when the hurricane was [initially predicted] to hit us, we were looking at keeping in contact with old employees and looking for new people, so we could keep up with the demand,” says Trey Price, vice president. “We’re watching the weather and trying to find helping hands for when we need them. We haven’t had a major hurricane hit us since Hurricane Hugo, and we had significant damage back then. We need to make sure that we’re equipped. We have to take care of the jobs at hand, and be prepared with boards, because many people will call us to board up. We have to have the manpower and trucks, because we can’t say ‘we’re too busy right now’ when the people call. We’ve gotta’ watch the weather and keep in touch with the people.”

Hurricanes are nothing new in North Carolina, says Jeff Bailey, president of Southern Glass & Mirror of Eastern North Carolina Inc. in Swansboro, N.C. “[We are doing] the typical board ups and securing our facility. We have approximately 20 service trucks that have been called back from different military bases, all up and down the eastern United States, so that they are available for quick response to the need here locally,” he says.

Standard Glass Co. in Wilmington, N.C., is seven miles from the ocean. “We’re doing board-ups as we speak,” says Andy Scott, contract manager. “We’re boarding up commercial buildings and some residential. We have emergency generators and an emergency telephone system. We have brought in about 10 extra people to board up. It does add a little bit of revenue. We have electric roll-down shutters for our shop, and the generators are on standby.”

The hurricane is expected to hit the Wilmington area at 7 a.m. tomorrow, and will take about 4-5 hours to pass through, Scott says. “We’re expecting winds at 70-90 miles per hour and a fair amount of rain. The worst part is that it’s coming through at high tide, so we’ll probably get flooding in this area.” The last big hurricane in the area, Hurricane Floyd, was about eight years ago, he says, and it caused extensive damages. “We’ve been doing more impact glazing for the last two years. It used to be regular storefronts, but now they see the advantage of spending a little extra money and stop the problem at that end.”

Further north, Champion Metal and Glass has a fabrication shop and office in Long Island N.Y. “I’ve contacted my suppliers and asked to be accommodated in case of board-ups,” says Ali Ghahremani, president. “I’m hoping that the phone lines don’t go down. If they do, we will have to depend on cell phones. Our windows are covered with Plexiglass, and have window guards, so they should be safe. We hope that business is back to normal on Monday, August 29.”

Certain areas of Long Island have received voluntary evacuation orders. The island is home to 3 million people and has a handful of bridges to the mainland.

Employees at J.E. Berkowitz in Pedricktown, N.J., are waiting to see where the storm goes, says Mike Nicklas, business development manager. “We have auxiliary power, in case of power failure,” he says.

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