As Texas and Louisiana continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey, the Southeast U.S. is preparing for another massive storm: Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that has already ravaged parts of the Caribbean. The “potentially catastrophic” hurricane could make landfall in Florida or the Carolinas over the weekend, forcing both distributors and suppliers to shut down operations and shore-up their facilities.
Both Fort Lauderdale-based MRL Promotions (asi/258137) and Miami-based Eyevertising (asi/57371) are closed Thursday and Friday. Port St. Lucie, FL-based IDProductsource (asi/62088) is expected to be open Thursday and Friday, but will mostly likely close on Monday. “We are taking a day-by-day approach,” said CEO John Aspinwall.
Although Miami-based Bullet (asi/42424) remains open, its SureShip service has been suspended for Bullet products. Brian O’Gara, marketing content specialist at Bullet’s parent company Polyconcept North America, said that the company is still accepting standard lead time orders, but can’t guarantee ship dates prior to mid-next week.
“We are actively monitoring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as our freight carriers, FedEx and UPS, and will adjust our operations accordingly,” O’Gara said. “We have contingency plans in place and will continue to update our customers on our operations via our website.”
Chris Ferriter, vice president of sales at SoBe Promos (asi/245603), said staff spent Wednesday afternoon filling sandbags and helping neighboring Miami businesses prepare for the storm. “We’re informing customers that shipments may get delayed or that we may need to shut down the office for an extended period of time,” Ferriter said. “We’re just taking all necessary precautions and staying as informed as we can.”
Top 40 supplier Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125), based in Largo, FL, will be open for business and operating as usual. “Based on all evidence we have at this point, we are not going to be hit directly,” said CJ Schmidt, president of Hit. “Although we will be impacted, it shouldn’t be until this weekend. In addition, our county has not issued any sort of evacuation. There are certain zip codes in south Florida that we will not be able to ship to, but I am sure that is to be expected at this point.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, and suspended all state tolls in order to ease evacuation efforts. On Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency after forecasters warned that Irma could make landfall in the state as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. The NFL has rescheduled the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season opener on Sunday for November 19.
Irma ranks as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes during the past 80 years and the strongest Atlantic basin storm ever outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. With maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, Irma slammed Barbuda Wednesday morning before hitting St. Martin and Anguilla, followed by Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the afternoon. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory to seek refuge in one of 460 hurricane shelters in advance of the storm.
Irma is projected to pass the Dominican Republic’s and Haiti’s northern coasts, Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Friday. The storm will be approaching mainland Florida and the Keys by Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.
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