Black’s Tire Service Inc. says Hurricane Matthew has flooded stores, knocked out windows, and punched holes in the roofs of its buildings. Much of its service area remains without power.
As of the afternoon of Oct. 13, seven of the company’s 37 stores remained closed, said Rick Benton, vice president of purchasing and marketing. They’ve had no way to assess some of the damage, including in Lumberton, N.C., a city of about 21,000. Black’s Tire has three stores in Lumberton. A pilot flew them over the city and provided a glimpse. In the photos, the road in front of one of the Lumberton stores is bone dry; but on either side of the road properties and vehicles are still submerged. And less than a block away, the dry road is suddenly under water.
In another store, Benton said, “the water is still in the building up to your knees.”
The company’s original store, in Whiteville, N.C., reopened Wednesday morning. The power there was restored hours before it came back on at the Black’s Tire headquarters in Whiteville.
The three stores in Lumberton, two in Florence, S.C., and single stores in Dillon, S.C. and Dunn, N.C. remain closed.
“We can’t even get to Dillon,” Benton said.
Some Black’s Tire employees have been forced from their homes.
While flooding remains a problem, and Lumberton is considered one of the worst-hit areas, Benton said another huge obstacle is major roads have been washed out. Large sections of Interstate 95 are shut down due to damage.
“Today (Thursday) we’re running all of our trucks,” Benton said, even though some areas remain inaccessible. One route that typically takes five hours was about double, due to detours. Dams have broken. Bridges are down. Roads are washed away.
The company works from four warehouses around the region, but the one in Whiteville is the central hub. “The problem is trying to get from here in Whiteville to anywhere else.
“Everything is affected by distribution,” he said.
The storm made landfall on Oct. 8, and Benton said the company began shutting down operations on Oct. 7. And even though the rain stopped over the weekend, rivers are still rising. In Lumberton, flood stage is 13 feet. As of the morning of Oct. 14, the river was observed at 22.71 feet according to the National Weather Service.
“I have a new respect for water,” Benton said. “The people at the substation are in chest-deep water working on the power lines.”
Grant Jenkins manages the Black’s Tire store in Conway, S.C. Even though it was spared of flooding, winds blew out the windows in the showroom and ripped a hole in the roof.
“No windows, no roof, no problem!,” Jenkins said. “Business is currently open and running full staff. Windows and roof damage won’t stop ‘the BTS Way’ from helping the surrounding community get through the aftermath.”
The BTS Way is a mantra for Black’s Tire employees. They talk about it daily, and wear it on rubber bracelets around their wrists. And even in the midst of a hurricane, the company and its employees are working to help others in their communities.
Black’s Tire is coordinating hurricane relief. All of the company’s stores are collecting donations of essentials, and the company is distributing those items to churches and schools that have been turned into shelters. They specifically are collecting these items:
Adult diapers (all sizes); baby diapers (all sizes); cleaning supplies; toiletries (especially feminine hygiene products); canned goods and non-perishable food items; new clothing (T-shirts, shoes, and socks); toys; and bottled water.
The collection will continue through Oct. 21.
Donations of supplies also can be sent to:
BTS Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort
Attn: Rick or Amy
30 Bitmore Rd. (PO Box 919)
Whiteville, N.C. 28472.