With powerful Hurricane Florence taking a wobbling route toward the Southeast, experts are already considering possible damages — especially to vehicles — in light of the catastrophes created by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida a year ago.
The update distributed by the National Hurricane Center late on Wednesday showed how the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia could be impacted by Florence, which boasts winds at nearly 130mph. However, Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke pointed out that the number of vehicles in those locations isn’t as high as the Houston area, which absorbed the greatest amount of rainfall from a single storm ever recorded in the U.S. late last August.
Still, Cox Automotive projects that at least 20,000 vehicles could be destroyed by Florence, which could strengthen again before crashing into land before the weekend.
“We’ve taken a look at the potential automotive impact and, thankfully, believe the loss in total will be manageable,” Smoke said in a commentary posted on Tuesday. “While any flooded vehicle is a disaster, we expect Florence to take relatively few in comparison to other hurricanes.”
“Vehicles are key to any recovery as transportation is vital,” Smoke continued. “In Houston, Texas, last year, the vehicle density in the city and the nature of the flood meant a significant, sizeable loss of vehicles. Replacement vehicles were therefore hard to come by, which slowed the recovery. The sizeable Houston loss also impacted used-vehicle prices across the country, as the need outpaced the supply.”
Smoke explained that vehicle density in the storm's current path is about half that of Houston. He made his assessment considering a potential path stretching from Savannah, Ga., to Norfolk, Va., that encompasses a population of 10.2 million people and 3.9 million households.
“Thankfully this is not as densely populated as some coastal regions,” he said. “The broad area has a population density of 182 people per square mile, which is less than half that of the Houston or the state of Florida, which were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year.”
Smoke went on to mention this segment of the Southeast contains about 9 million vehicles in operation, with a vehicle density of 162 vehicles per square mile. By contrast, Smoke noted Houston has 326 units, and Florida has 314 vehicles per square mile.
Help for dealership employees impacted
The National Automobile Dealers Association reiterated its commitment to help employees of dealership members who might be impacted by Florence.
The NADA Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund provides financial assistance to dealership employees and their families who sustain personal property damage from the hurricane and potential floods.
To download the application for financial assistance, visit www.nada.org/emergencyrelief. For more information, call (703) 821-7102.