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Hurricane Sandy, the most devastating storm ever to hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, has wreaked havoc on residents’ lives, both personal and business.

At press time on Nov. 1, only three days after the storm hit, industry-specific statistics were not yet available, but we have uncovered important information about the challenges Sandy has created and how they are affecting floral retailers and wholesalers in the stricken areas.

In two of the hardest hit states, New York and New Jersey, power companies announced on Nov. 1 that electricity and gas will not be completely restored to all residents and businesses until mid-November or later. Both retail and wholesale florists who are affected by power outages — even those who suffered no physical damage to their properties — are at the mercy of the power companies and will be unable to operate their businesses until service is restored.

New YorkConsolidated Edison Inc. (ConEd), which provides electric, gas and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, reports that many customers in NYC will have their power back on by Nov. 3-4 while others will be without power through Nov. 10-11. Still other customers can expect to be without power until Nov. 19, the company states. Residents and businesses that have power delivered by overhead lines, as well as those whose buildings were flooded and have damaged electrical equipment, will be without power the longest.

New JerseyPublic Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PSEG), New Jersey’s largest power company, reports that about 72 percent of its 2.2 million customers lost power and that it has already restored service to about 60 percent of those; however, the company projects it will not have power fully restored to all customers until Nov. 7 or even later.

Gasoline supply issues are affecting delivery of flowers for both wholesale and retail florists. Several factors have made gasoline a precious commodity in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy:

• Power outages have halted production at gasoline terminals and refineries.

• Flooding has made gasoline tanker trucks unable to transport gas to the affected areas.

• Many gas stations are closed due to flooding, lack of power or no fuel. Those that are open are seeing long lines and long wait times for motorists.

Kevin Beyer, president and CEO of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association (LIGRA), reported on Nov. 1 that more than half of the more than 600 gas stations his organization represents were without gasoline and/or power.

In addition, several gasoline industry experts are predicting a rise in gasoline prices as a result of shortages caused by the storm.

Sandy has created circumstances that have disrupted the supplies of fresh flowers and hard goods, and a return to normal supply flow probably will take days or weeks — or even months.

New York City is the primary destination for flowers imported from Holland, and because of the closure of the three NYC-area airports and the resulting disruption in service (LaGuardia is still closed, and no reopening date has been announced), shipments of Dutch flowers have been either canceled, postponed or otherwise interrupted. At press time, however, no statistics were available.

Likewise, shipments of flowers imported from South America, through Miami (more than 70 percent of the flowers consumed in the United States come from Colombia and Ecuador), as well as flowers grown in California, all of which are transported across the U.S. via truck, also are experiencing interruptions and slowdowns because of damaged roads and restricted areas, and fuel shortages.

Christine Boldt, executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF), confirms that some trucks have not been able to get in to the areas where they need to deliver. And hard-goods companies are experiencing similar difficulties delivering product to wholesale suppliers. Both these scenarios are having a trickle-down effect on retail florists and likely will for some time to come.

In addition, demand for our industry’s products is sure to be down, as the priorities, needs and lifestyles of consumers who were dramatically affected by the storm have changed.

“Obviously, sales are not what they would normally be for the Northeast,” Ms. Boldt says, “but there's no way to specifically quantify that.”

• Employees not being able to get to work. This may be due to mass-transit closures, road damage, fuel shortages and more, as well as having to deal with catastrophes and losses in their personal lives.

One example of this and the flower supply challenges is the situation at Starbright Floral Design, in New York City, reported by the Society of American Florists (SAF). The shop had to cancel eight events it had booked for the weekend of Nov. 2-4 because tragedies in the personal lives of many employees have kept them from going to work; much of the city’s mass-transit system has been down, preventing many staffers from being able to get to the shop; and the quantities and types of flowers needed have not been available due to airport, road and fuel issues.

• Physical damage to retailers’ and wholesalers’ business properties (see “A Wholesaler’s Report,” below) that requires repair before the businesses can reopen.

• Reduced demand for floral products from consumers as those that were most adversely affected focus on rebuilding their lives.

• Lengthy repair times for roads and other infrastructures required for companies to be able to conduct business. Reconstruction likely will be hampered even more by the coming winter weather.

Julie Long, corporate office administrator for Pennock Company, a wholesale florist based in Edgemont, Pa., shares that several of the company’s Eastern Seaboard facilities were affected by the hurricane.

“Our New York location, which is on Long Island, was hit pretty badly,” Ms. Long reports.“There was no severe damage to the building, but their area was very dramatically hit. They experienced massive power outages and flooding all over the New York area.” Pennock’s Long Island facility, in Plainview, reopened on Nov. 1.

Ms. Long also notes that Pennock’s Delaware facility suffered strong effects of the hurricane as well. “Roads were closed across Delaware, but our Delaware location, as well as all of our facilities, are also back open as of today [Nov. 1],” she notes.

In both locations, however, Ms. Long shares that staff are focused on getting the facilities in order and picking up the pieces to get up to full operation. Therefore, no one in Pennock’s New York and Delaware facilities was available at press time to provide details on their operational status.

While the situation in Philadelphia was challenging, the location was not as severely impacted as those in New York and Delaware.

“We did lose power, and obviously, a lot of our customers weren’t able to get anywhere. Because of massive power outages, most businesses in this area were closed on Monday and Tuesday [Oct. 29 and 30], even UPS and FedEx. We definitely felt a hit on sales, and even now, it’s tough picking back up because a lot of businesses and consumers don’t have power, or their buildings were hit by trees or damaged by high winds,” Ms. Long shares.

If your floral business was affected by Hurricane Sandy, we want to hear how you are doing now. Please email or post on our Facebook page.

 Copyright 2017
WildFlower Media Inc.