By Chris Jensen —
A slow-moving storm packing torrential rain hit the Northeast on Sunday, July 9, causing catastrophic damage from flooding in a number of communities in Vermont and upstate New York.
In New York, officials were reporting one person dead and thousands impacted by flooding in Rockland County and Orange County, part of the Hudson Valley north of New York City. Putnam Valley, N.Y., received 8.93 inches of rain on Sunday, more than twice the typical amount of rainfall for the entire month of July, according to the National Weather Service.
Main roads were flooded, washed out or full of debris near West Point, Highland Falls and Fort Montgomery, N.Y. Emergency shelters were set up for those displaced by the historic flooding as hardware and home improvement retailers scrambled to meet the urgent needs of their communities.
The situation was worse and flooding more widespread in neighboring Vermont, with numerous roads washed out and sustaining major damage. Although an emergency order that had closed Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier was lifted on Tuesday, most of the downtown area remained under water as local officials kept an eye on a nearby dam that was close to spilling over.
More than 100 people had been rescued from homes and cars in Vermont by Tuesday as more rain was forecast for Thursday.
Retailers Hit Hard By Rising Waters
Nelson Ace Hardware in Barre, Vt., lost more than $300,000 of inventory when its basement flooded with nine feet of water (which is not covered by insurance), according to a report by Hilary Swift in The New York Times, but Owner Bob Nelson said he was heartened by the support of the community.
On the store’s Facebook page, Nelson posted on July 11: “As Linda and I wait for the water to recede we are humbled by the many texts and calls we’ve received offering assistance. As of right now Nelson’s is still underwater. Once we assess the damage we will be back up and running as soon as possible. We know that many of you are suffering too and need our help. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the support. Be safe and stay strong!”
On July 12, Nelson posted: “Our internet and phones are down and we can’t retrieve messages-we apologize for all the calls we’ve missed. We should have most of our power restored tomorrow and while we are still reeling from the flood we plan to be open Thursday at least 7:30-4:00. Our community is amazing and really shines when the chips are down and there is a crisis.”
Aubuchon Hardware has been forced to temporarily close a store it operates on Main Street in downtown Montpelier. “We are doing our best to move supplies to area stores to assist customers in need, however road closures are greatly impeding our efforts,” the retailer posted on its Facebook page. They added: “Over the past 115 years, since the Aubuchon Company was founded, we have seen our fair share of natural disasters. In 1992, our Montpelier, VT store experienced the same level of flooding. Then in 2011, we experienced hurricane Irene which created another round of havoc throughout Vermont. We have seen a lot since 1908, and together we have always endured. We want you to know that we will be here for the cleanup, we will be here for the rebuild, and we will be here to serve our Vermont communities. Vermonters will persevere!”
Aubuchon Hardware’s store in South Royalton, Vt., (formerly Welch’s True Value) closed on July 10 due to rising waters but was able to reopen later in the week. On Facebook that store promoted the availability of rental offerings such as dehumidifiers, pumps, floor sanders, plumbing snakes and chain saws.
Aubuchon’s store in Ludlow, Vt., was also forced to close on July 10, as roads in and out were washed away. They were hopeful of being able to reopen later in the week. LaValley Building Supply in Ludlow also closed on July 10 but was able to reopen on July 12.
The owners of Harry’s Hardware in Cabot, Vt., (which includes a full-service bar with eight beer taps and a deli) faced a harrowing ordeal as the raging flood waters descended on their town. Here’s what they posted on Facebook on July 11: “Vermont is weeping this morning and I wish I could say that Cabot was spared. Our harrowing acts to save the store got us trapped in the building for a few hours until it was safe to rescue us, but the inside of the store sustained little damage. Sadly, the outside of the building sustained extensive damage in the storm. We are resilient and we will be back! We will need a moment to rebuild, but we are working towards opening the store and The Den as soon as possible. We have so much love for this town. Everyone rallied to help us and we might be able to open our doors this week, because we all need a place to gather and weep over this mess. We love you all and will keep you posted. We are resilient – Vermont Strong!”
Plainfield Hardware in East Montpelier, Vt., stayed open until 3 p.m. on July 11 despite a lot of local road closures and encouraged customers to stop in for what they needed if they could find a safe route there. The store was able to stock up on flashlights, lamps, batteries, ice, propane, bottled water, firewood and kindling to meet the surging demand of customers.
In Connecticut, a Century Club retailer is permanently closing its doors as a result of a major flood that hit July 4. Star Hardware in Hartford, Ct., which dates back to 1915, has flooded four times in the past five years, according to Owner Max Kothari, and each time it has caused nearly $1 million in damage. He blames a poorly designed retention pond developed behind the store as the culprit, which continually overflows and sends stormwater and sewage into the streets. He plans to continue business on a limited basis with appliance and cabinet sales.
Orgill’s Response to the Northeast Floods
Consistent with Orgill’s mission to Help Our Customers Be Successful, Orgill’s Rome, N.Y., distribution center (DC) has been closely collaborating with the Northeast sales team on a day-to-day basis, and even hour-by-hour in certain cases, as situations arise, according to Earl Bernard, Orgill’s communications director.
Orgill’s long-standing emergency preparedness process is in place and ready to implement any time there is an emergency. Orgill allows dealers to book emergency items, ensuring they have certain necessary products in case of a natural disaster, particularly during hurricane season. When an emergency happens, additional products can be ordered by retailers within the affected area and the supporting Orgill distribution center works with the customer and sales team to expedite delivery, Bernard pointed out.
The Sales Support Team regularly updates the availability of the emergency goods list and posts it on Orgill.com, providing the sales team with a communication tool to share with customers regarding inventory availability at each DC.
Mark Scanlon, Orgill vice president Northeast distribution, said: “The Rome Team has been proactively adding extra stops between truck routes and preparing orders in advance, anticipating the reopening of roadways. Once the flood water recedes, Orgill’s focus shifts to ensuring that supplies are readily available for our customer base and the communities they serve. The operations team deserves recognition for their exceptional ability to handle additional freight requests at a moment’s notice without any disruption to other customers not in the affected areas. Likewise, the transportation team has been outstanding in working with affected retailers to coordinate the deliveries. Both teams remain highly focused on helping to address our customers’ needs, especially during these extreme weather-related circumstances.”
Rebecca Partee, Orgill’s sales support vice president added: “Natural disasters can leave intense, lasting impacts in communities. Home improvement stores are essential to support the areas they serve. Orgill works hard to be the trusted supplier for our customers during these difficult times.”
Bo Acker, Orgill transportation manager at its Rome distribution center commented: “Effective communication is crucial for our team to rapidly respond to our customers’ needs. In addition to communicating with the sales team about store requirements, we have been actively sharing information about road closures and routing challenges. Our drivers receive daily updates about routing issues resulting from the storm and the aftermath of the flooding. We employ text messages, emails and one-on-one phone calls to provide detailed information about closures and to address specific concerns. We have also shared links to apps and websites that offer up-to-date hourly road condition updates. Furthermore, we maintain communication with drivers regarding store closures, added stops, route obstacles and alternative delivery locations for stores that are either flooded or inaccessible.”
David Abram, Orgill’s Northeast sales business development manager remarked:” Our team is strongly focused on ensuring our customers’ needs are met especially during these difficult weather periods, which are becoming commonplace. Shortly after the weather event, the field sales team was in touch with customers, principally to ensure their safety, then secondarily to see how they and the remainder of the Orgill team could respond in support during the customer’s time of need.”
Darrell Baker, an Orgill corporate account manager, said: “I give credit to the efforts of the entire team at the Rome DC in remaining nimble and extremely responsive to customer needs in an incredibly tough environment. As a corporate accounts manager with stores serviced from Rome, intensive coordination is required to support the stores who support their communities as devastation raged across a wide area.”
Do it Best’s Warehouse Response
Most of the road closures have had limited impact on our delivery routes from our warehouse in Montgomery, N.Y., said Allison Meyer, Do it Best’s communications director. “We have had only two members that we can’t access due to high water. As of today (July 13), we are working with our territory sales managers to identify emergency routes and trucks to help members continue supporting their communities. At this point, we are still waiting for the water to subside before we can access their locations. We’re already working to ensure we have adequate inventory to cover the demand,” she added.
Do it Best Member Impact
Most of our Do it Best members in Vermont and upstate New York were very fortunate and got out without loss, Meyer said. “Unfortunately, one of our members, Thomas Hometown in Berlin, Vermont, was not so lucky. They were just wrapping up a major store project when the flood hit. They received a larger order for the project at noon on Monday, and by 5 p.m. that afternoon there was already two feet of water in the store. By 8 p.m., they had nearly four feet of water, and overnight the water rose another couple of feet. This location is not far from Montpelier, Vermont, the state capital. As of last night, they have still not had a chance to get into their store, but the water is supposed to start receding,” she said.
Meyer added, “Johnson Hardware (in Johnson, Vt.) and their community have really been impacted. They have a river that actually goes around their property. When we last spoke with the member, he shared that the water was three feet away from breaching their banks and coming into the store as the waters continued to rise.”
True Value Impact and Response
A handful of True Value stores in the region were impacted but are all up and running again, according to Nadia Hill, True Value’s communications manager. Montpelier Agway in Montpelier, Vt., experienced severe flooding, but water is receding and the store is assessing damage. Kenyons True Value in Northfield, Vt., also had flooding and was able to pump out water.
Menard’s Family True Value in Morrisville, Vt., and WW Building Supply in Newfane, Vt., both took preventative measures that minimized damage and impact to their stores.
The biggest challenge True Value stores are facing is travel throughout their region, primarily for their customers. True Value reps, who partner with their local stores, said the retailers are not experiencing any delays or issues with deliveries.
“The True Value team is working closely with all of our stores in the area to support them with whatever they need during this time,” said Jennifer McNeill, True Value’s senior vice president supply chain. “Our logistical infrastructure is in place to make sure we can effectively support our customers and their communities during these extreme weather events.”