Pensacola Glass Shops Still Recovering From Ivan, Survived Katrina

While many glass shops in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were most drastically affected by Hurricane Katrina and the destruction it brought, glass shops in Pensacola, Florida were also on the receiving end of high winds and rain two weeks ago. Fortunately, Pensacola was on the edge of the storm system, and though the community faced some strong weather, they have fared much worse in the very recent past.

"We had very minimum damage. We probably sustained 60-70 mile-per-hour winds for eight to ten hours, but we didn't receive a lot of physical damage to our facility or our homes," said Woody Watters, general manager with Pensacola Glass Co. "We had a little tree damage, but other than that, we came through really lucky to be honest with you."

It's a good thing that they didn't get hit harder, too. Pensacola is still rebuilding from Hurricane Ivan, which hit last summer.
"The storm hitting as close as it did to us certainly made more people aware of the situation and the respect people have for these storms has intensified that much more," said Watters in an interview with GlassBYTEs.

Pensacola Glass Co., which handles both auto glass and flat glass, has a unique perspective on the state of the industry and the immediate future, having been through similar weather before.

"From an auto glass standpoint, people who sustained damage to their auto glass, they respond pretty quickly. It as the case in Ivan and it has picked up a little since [Hurricane Katrina.] We certainly have been busy. From a flat glass standpoint … most of the big work is going to be [done] later, after the insurance adjusters are done, especially in the Gulfport, Biloxi areas and going back toward New Orleans. Those areas are pretty much obliterated. That's the only way I can describe it."

Pensacola Glass Co., itself had people out working in the aftermath of the storm, checking to see what happened to work they had done in the past.

"We actually had some people in Gulfport [last Thursday] inspecting the federal courthouse that we did contract glass work on a few years back," Watters said.

What will the future hold? Plenty of demand for glass, that's for sure-just not right away.

"There will be a lot of glass replacement in auto glass because of the hurricane, but so many of the automobiles in the main strike area of the hurricane were damaged beyond repair. They were flooded with water, etc., and insurance companies are going to total those vehicles. On the flat glass side, there is going to be a huge demand, but it will come down the road because those buildings aren't there. They have to rebuild and it's going to take some time before that really swings into high gear," Watters said.

Just how much time is "some time" before things return to a semblance of normal? In Watters' opinion, no less than three years.

"This … is not going to be a short recovery time. It's going to take years and years for the economies to get back on their feet. I projected that Pensacola would take three years to get back to where it was before Hurricane Ivan. The areas hit by Katrina will take a lot more than three years to get back to anything resembling what they were."

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