Six months after the April 15 tornado, impacted businesses are rebuilding
If you asked me ten things that could happen to the business—this would not have been on the list. It’s a helpless feeling. There’s nothing you can do; you just have to deal with it.”
So says Jim Drumheller, a Point Source Audio co-owner, of the F3 tornado that touched down in the greater Lynchburg region on April 15. Campbell County—particularly along Timberlake Road where Point Source Audio was located on Beechwood Drive—saw more than $17 million in structural losses, and 16 businesses were severely damaged. According to Lynchburg City reports in May, 11 businesses were “impacted,” though total monetary damage throughout city limits totaled more than the Derecho of 2012.
Many of the affected businesses are small, family-owned operations, making them particularly susceptible to the financial and logistical challenges following a natural disaster. But despite numerous obstacles, these local business owners have rallied. Some relocated—but all have carried on.
Timberlake Road—The Epicenter
“I’ve seen other natural disasters but until you’re involved in one, you don’t realize the effects,” Drumheller says. “You spend years building a business, and in five minutes… it’s gone.”
Point Source Audio’s leased building suffered a damaged roof—“it completely took the roof off one section, [and] rolled back across the building and knocked holes in that membrane roof,” Drumheller says—which in turn impaired the alignment and stability of the walls. The building was deemed unsafe almost immediately, which limited who had access to the building.
“Most of the real damage was done by the water that came in,” Drumheller says. “It rained a lot of subsequent days, and we had a tremendous amount of water get in the building; we salvaged a lot of our stock out of the showroom, but we did have significant losses in other parts, particularly in the warehouse from the water that came in.”
Like other businesses affected along Timberlake Road, Point Source Audio relocated as quickly as possible. While they’re up and running out of their new location on Progress Drive, they’re still recouping and trying to overcome the challenges that come with relocating a retail location to a space 60 percent smaller than their previous location.
The Floor Show was also forced to relocate (and to a much smaller location) after their primary showroom was destroyed.
Whitney Poole, an officer of the company, says they had several people on site immediately following the tornado in efforts to salvage all that they could before water damaged anything further.
“They pulled computer systems out, moved things to the warehouse, and were trying to pick up and shift anything that was salvageable or important,” Poole says. “They were doing all of that within a half hour; by the time 8:30 p.m. rolled around, they were already pulling the servers out—otherwise there would have been a lot more damage.”
Poole says that while they lost the showroom and the inventory housed there, which effectively closed down their sales department temporarily, they were still able to carry on with their installation division.
“The initial building was built in 1975,” Poole says. Over the years the company continued to add on until they had three interconnected buildings; the front one where they housed the showroom and inventory was hit. The rear buildings had minimal damage but “never shut down; that same week the guys were still loading up and going on installation jobs,” Poole explains.
Poole also recounted weeks of uncertainty in the tornado’s aftermath.
“Until we had the insurance adjusters tell us, ‘This is a loss,’ on the showroom … that process took awhile; for them to determine, ‘Does it need to come down completely or are the beams okay?’ It was a few weeks before they gave the final word on whether or not [the building] needed to come down.”
The momentary holding pattern made it difficult for them to move forward because they didn’t know if they needed “a space for a showroom and offices or also the warehouse” Poole says. In the end, the entire roof has to be replaced on the warehouse, but they are still allowed to operate out of it; that assessment meant their installation services could continue without too many setbacks. Offices and showrooms downsized and relocated next to Timberlake Family Pharmacy on the corner of Timberlake Road and Greenview Drive.
While insurance coverage is helpful following a natural disaster, the timeline and paperwork are unpredictable and demanding. Drumheller says, “I spent a lot of time on paperwork! You just don’t realize the amount of time and labor it’s going to take to clean up everything and get reset; it was just a continuous task to get it all done and for a while it was all we did.”
Poole says their insurance company quickly escalated them to large claims, but that required a new level of involvement. “They brought in adjusters from New York and Chicago,” she says. “And then architects… that process took awhile.”
For other business owners, Drumheller warns, “It’s absolutely essential that you have a good agent and review your coverage periodically” so you can be best prepared for whatever may occur.
The Surrounding Region
While some businesses weren’t forced to relocate, they still suffered damage that hit the bottom line.
Kenneth Revis had to temporarily close his shop, Revis Body Shop on Forest Brook Road, since all four bay doors were blown out.
“Security was a big issue,” he says. “We didn’t have doors, so [there’s] no way to protect anything.” Plus, with exposure and torrential rain came extensive water damage.
Revis says, “Everything was covered in water; all the water came through the doors. We even had dripping water out of the ceilings… several of the lights had to be replaced.”
At a cost of $10,000 out of pocket, Revis worked with Anderson Garage to install new bay doors straight from the manufacturer in North Carolina within a business-saving three weeks. Had they waited for delivery or possible insurance coverage, they would have faced a wait time of 8 to 12 weeks, which Revis says “would have put me out of business; even with business interruption insurance, I would have been out.”
Within an hour of the tornado, Revis had arrived on site and hasn’t looked back since. “The biggest thing was trying to get it all cleaned up,” he says. “Getting those doors, getting back to work and not getting out of business.”
For small, family-owned and -operated businesses, such as Revis Body Shop with four employees, natural disasters can kickoff a series of devastating setbacks.
But Revis, like all of the others interviewed for these stories, has a straightforward and resilient assessment: “We got by. I’m thankful for that.”
Tornado Damage By the Numbers
• 337 homes damaged
• 34 homes deemed uninhabitable
• 1,000+ trees uprooted or downed
• 10+ million pounds of brush and debris collected
• More collective monetary damage than 2012 Derecho Data according to the City of Lynchburg, May 2018
Campbell County/Timberlake Region
• 16 businesses and two duplexes with severe structural damage
• $16,441,000.00 commercial, structural loss in Timberlake area
• A 1.7 mile long path length and maximum wind speeds of 90 MPH
Data according to Campbell County, April 2018