Businesses on waterlogged islands carry on

Davis Produce on Wilmington Island expects to open Friday morning with fresh produce from North Georgia and South Carolina. (Mary Carr Mayle/Savannah Morning News)

Businesses on Wilmington and Whitemarsh Islands were mostly up and running Wednesday morning, with none reporting any major damage from Hurricane Irma’s wind and water.

 

Both Publix Super Markets were open as was Kroger, CVS and Walgreens on Johnny Mercer Boulevard.

One of very few indications that it wasn’t an ordinary business day was the makeshift plywood sign in front of Ace Hardware declaring: “We Have Generators.”

“With Matthew still fresh in our minds, we looked at things we thought we could have done better then, and made some inventory adjustments,” said Ace manager Randy West.

In addition to generators, top sellers in the past days have included gas cans, batteries, sandbags, flashlights and tarps.

While it didn’t sustain damage, Davis Produce on U.S. 80 is facing some challenging logistics issues.

Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables that fill the popular market come from Florida, the state hardest hit by Hurricane Irma.

“We’re searching for other sources,” said manager Lisa Davis. “We’re bringing in Osage Farm tomatoes from North Georgia and going to the farmer’s market in Columbia, South Carolina.”

Davis said she expects to reopen Friday.

“In the meantime, we’re all praying for Florida.”

‘Could have been so much worse’

On the backside of the island, many residents were still without electricity Wednesday afternoon. Some homes in Sweet Bailey Cove and Brevard Point had standing water on their lower levels and were cleaning up as best they could while waiting for power.

Brevard Point resident Jan Thigpen said the water was confined to her garage but had receded by Wednesday morning, leaving her backyard covered in marsh wrack.

“The water came up much higher than it did with Matthew,” she said. “I can’t imagine what the storm surge would have been like if Irma had been the Category 3 storm that was predicted.

“All in all, we were really fortunate that the damage was so minimal.”

Insurance and risk management expert David Paddison agreed, adding that there are specific things homeowners with damage should be doing now to help mitigate the immediate situation.

Those include making arrangements to protect the property from further damage, documenting the damage with pictures and notifying their insurance carrier.

While it’s fine to start reaching out to contractors, don’t make any major decisions until you have talked with your insurance agent of adjuster, Paddison, president of Sterling Seacrest Partners, said Wednesday.

“Temporary repairs to prevent additional damage are OK, but don’t start renovating your damaged house until you have that important conversation,” he said.

Lessons to learn

“As residents of the Georgia coast, our area is subject to a myriad of weather events, including severe thunderstorms and hurricanes,” Paddison said. “Embedded in these weather events is the exposure to high winds and tornadoes, surface and tidal flooding, lightning, loss of power and the disruptions associated with evacuations.

“It’s important to understand these issues and how to prepare for them with the appropriate risk management strategies and insurance coverage.”

Dealing with both Hurricanes Matthew and Irma in an 11-month time period has highlighted many of those exposures, he said.

“This should serve as a wake-up call and an opportunity for both residents and business owners.”

Among his suggestions:

Contact your insurance agent to review your coverage.

Get an “insurance tune up.” You may have made improvements or additions to your property since you set up your policy. Consider home or business renovations and additions, purchases of jewelry, a new boat, cars, etc.

Understand the difference between insurance that covers rain damage and insurance that covers flood damage.

When you repair structural damage, consider building in more storm resistant features.

Inspect trees for damage, loose soil and proximity to structures. Move or trim as necessary.

“It’s important to take what we learn from this storm as we prepare for the next,” he said.

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