Record-breaking tornadoes in the southeast United States have damaged a number of pool and spa businesses.
Companies throughout the region are doing their best to get up to speed and help their customers do the same.
In April, seven states were ravaged by the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1925, leaving more than 350 dead and as much as $5.5 billion in damages.
Hundreds of tornadoes touched down, with some producing winds of more than 200 miles per hour. Alabama took the hardest hit, particularly the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham regions. In Tuscaloosa alone, approximately 5,000 homes were lost.
“Typically when we have a tornado in this area, it might be ½-mile wide; it may stay on the ground for 1, 2, 3 or 4 miles and do a lot of destruction in that one little area that was affected,” said Richard Petty, president of Petty Pools in Gordonsville, Tenn. “But this one basically covered a 130-mile area.”
Michael Dunn, operations manager at a Birmingham branch of Superior Pool Products, was in his house when one of the twisters hit.
“There was so much wind and pressure and noise,” Dunn recalled. “They say it sounds like a freight train, but it sounds more like four or five of them to me. The vacuum pressure [makes it feel like] something is clamping on your head. It’s just unbelievable. What seemed like 45 minutes might have lasted 2½ or 3.”
Dunn’s home was demolished, and his family lost everything.
Officials at PoolCorp, the parent company of SPP, sent emails throughout the industry asking for donations of clothes and money for the family, with APSP further spreading the word. Within a few days, the family had all the clothes and toys they needed. “We’ve gotten donations from as far away as California,” Dunn said. “It’s just amazing that people could care that much and not even know somebody.”
The APSP Alabama Chapter is waiting for a final accounting of members who have suffered serious losses to begin making donations, said its president, Glen Jacobson, also president of Birmingham-based Swimming Pool Services.
In the most devastated areas, pool and spa business has come to a standstill as home-owners attend to higher-priorities.
“The last thing on people’s minds is pools,” said Eric Goode, APSP Mid-South Chapter president and a senior vice president at Memphis-based parts distributor Optimus Pool & Spa Parts. “They’re looking for shelter, and [figuring out] how they’re going to put their houses and families back together.”
In less-damaged areas, industry professionals are receiving calls to fix and replace broken components. Others need estimates for their insurance providers.
“We have been bombarded with people who have aboveground pools because this is a big aboveground market area,” said Penny Johnson, vice president of Johnson Pools & Spas in Huntsville, Ala. “We’ve had a lot of quotes for that, and a lot of vinyl liners.”