Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states in late October, is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. In the United States, it claimed more than 100 lives and caused $30-$50 billion in total economic damage, according to forecasting firm Eqecat.
The lighting industry was not spared. Showrooms, offices and warehouses in the region sustained damage, and power outages took several days to restore. Closures and transportation issues also delayed product shipments from the area. But now, industry members are busy worrying about their friends and family that were affected, and wanting to contribute to the recovery effort.
“We believe it is important to support our neighbors and our lighting community,” says Andrij Burchark, Marketing Manager for Jesco Lighting, Glendale, NY. “Many of our distributors were closed due to flooding or blackout. All of us have friends or family that were affected by the storm. Watching the destruction on TV or seeing it in person only makes you want to do something to help.”
The Damage is Done
The range of Sandy’s destruction is wide. Capitol Lighting, which has four showrooms in New Jersey, saw its solar panels torn off the roof of two locations and scattered around the surrounding area. Bulbrite’s secondary warehouse in northern New Jersey suffered moderate damage due to flooding, but its headquarters, which are located in Moonachie, NJ, where a storm surge caused a levee to break, suffered minimal damage. Several of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery’s New Jersey locations were severely damaged and it has increased service at other nearby locations while repairs are underway.
Power loss, which took several days to fix, affected many. Jesco was closed for two business days. It took Bulbrite three days to become fully operational, and most of Capitol Lighting’s stores were closed for almost a week without power.
As home improvement efforts are getting underway, the industry in the Northeast is jumping to the aid of communities in need. Capitol Lighting will be offering a special no-minimum-purchase $50-off gift card to homeowners who need new lighting and has also partnered with one of its vendors, Maxim Lighting, to donate 150 new fixtures to Morris Habitat for Humanity.
“After seeing and hearing about the extent of the damage in the afflicted area, our hearts go out to the people whose livelihood was impacted,” Eric and Ken Lebersfeld, Capitol Lighting’s President and CEO respectively, said in a statement. “We understand that right now is the critical time for everyone to take care of the basic needs and simply get back on their feet.
Leviton announced a donation of $10,000 to the American Red Cross to support the relief effort. The cause is particularly poignant for Leviton since the company has called Long Island home for the past century and has seen firsthand the devastating toll that the storm took on many of its neighbors and employees.
“The devastation of Hurricane Sandy directly affected many Leviton employees, and we are genuinely proud of the actions that our company has taken to step up and help friends, neighbors and coworkers in need,” said Don Hendler, President and CEO of Leviton, in a statement. “As a family-owned company, Leviton has fostered a culture that takes pride in helping our community. We feel strongly it is our responsibility to support those volunteer organizations providing direct aid to those most affected by Hurricane Sandy.”
It's not just companies that are making a difference either. Queens-based lighting designer James Bedell has used social media to rally support behind an effort called Fixing Sandy. Focused on rebuilding with sustainability and resilience in the forefront, Bedell is calling on interior designers, architects, lighting manufacturers and others to donate services or offer discounts to small business owners and homeowners who need a helping hand to rebuild.
Bedell says, so far, industry response has been amazing, but he’s still calling for volunteers. “We’re in the very critical lag period now between the end of the disaster and the rebuild,” he says. “We need to get into gear now because the holidays are coming up, and then the warm weather right behind it and people will be ready to move.”
Now that the scope of Sandy’s destruction is becoming clear, so is possible long-term fallout. Burchak says Jesco is worried about the lasting effects that the blackout, flooding and shutdown will have on the lighting district in downtown New York City.
“Many of the smaller retailers were already struggling due to the long downturn in the economy,” Burchak says. “Also, some of the landlords may decide to or be forced to upgrade their buildings and then decide to force out the lighting retailer for a more lucrative tenant to pay for those upgrades. Six months from now we’ll see who was able to ‘weather the storm.’”
Although some of that may become reality, Bulbrite’s President Cathy Choi says Sandy gave her a new perspective toward lighting. “As one of the last two people in the company to regain power at home, I can appreciate how much light means to me. Light is not only the source of illumination that we live by but also the source of hope, warmth and life. Each night as I drove home and saw another house in the neighborhood with lights on, I could almost hear the sound of excitement and joy they must have felt at the moment they regained light.”