This information originally appeared in the September 1, 2005, issue of The MHEDA Connection, © Data Key Communications.
Several MHEDA members were in the destructive path of Hurricane Katrina. Power, phones and cell phone service remain disabled in many areas. Companies in the storm’s wake unable to be reached as of Wednesday, August 31, included M & L Industries (Houma, La.), Equipment, Inc. (Jackson, Miss.) and St. Cyr Inc. (Lucedale, Miss.). Briggs Equipment (Dallas, TX) has branches that sustained some damage, says President Dave Bratton. "On Tuesday, our New Orleans store was under 20 feet of water. No one has even come close to getting into the store. I have no true assessment of that damage yet, so it’s anybody’s guess when it will be ready again."
Other Briggs locations in Baton Rouge, Mobile, and Jackson, Miss., all took some slight roof damage. "The damage wasn’t major in those locations, and I expect them to be open and operating in a day or so." Mark Nelson, president of Nelson Equipment Company (Shreveport, La.), says, "We know we have lost some assets. Our building is in the flooded area but nobody really knows the level of devastation. We’re just going to have to wait it out." Nelson did happily report that all his employees evacuated safely. "At least one of our employees probably lost his entire home, but everyone is alive and kicking. I don’t know what would have happened if it had been a direct hit, because it is bad enough as it is."
Deep South Equipment Company (Shreveport, La.) had its branch in New Orleans destroyed, and it wreaked havoc throughout all the company’s branches. President John Parsons says, "We have one big mess. There’s no sign of improvement and it’s getting worse." One of the primary problems for Parsons is that the company’s mainframe computer was located in the New Orleans store. "Right now, I’m in the process of trying to buy a mainframe computer and put it in my Shreveport store because it looks like New Orleans may be down for a long while. We’re trying to figure out our payroll. I may manually have to write checks to my 140 employees." Parsons said that he has nearly 40 employees scattered throughout the southern United States, plus 20 more who are not yet accounted for. "We can’t find out anything because nothing works. I’m just trying to figure out what to do to help the most people. I have a bad situation with a lot of employees who have lost their homes. My company will survive. I’m just trying to figure out how to help my people survive." Companies with branches in Mobile, also suffered some damage.
Total Handling Equipment Company Inc. (Birmingham, Ala.) sustained roof damage and took on some water. Power was lost in the company’s Mobile and Birmingham facilities. The storm blew out a window and caused structural damage to the roof of Toyota Materials Handling (Irondale, AL) in Mobile. President Tom Mitchell notes, "Fortunately, we did not get any water, although there’s some extensive damage to other buildings in our complex. We’re not expecting to open that branch again until next week sometime." Mitchell had the foresight to transfer phone calls up to the Birmingham office to allow the company to continue to serve its customers.