Freak rainstorms the last week of June flooded processors in New York and Pennsylvania, forcing them to delay their plans and resort to massive cleanups.
For Cellect LLC, which makes specialty foam products for such items as baseball helmets and auto windshields in St. Johnsville, N.Y., the Mohawk River proved to be its undoing. The river overflowed its banks, forcing the company to evacuate its facility June 28.
Similarly, Remcon Plastics Inc., a custom manufacturer of material containers, has a structural foam facility in Reading, Pa. It had to stop production when the Schuylkill River pushed 5 feet of water into its facility.
Both companies are in regions that President Bush declared federal disaster areas, and both are assessing damage and cleaning up.
Cellect puts plans on hold
All it took was 48 hours and a freak rainstorm to change drastically the fortunes of 100 Cellect LLC employees.
Owner Scott Smith said the company announced June 26 that it had received Empire Zone tax breaks and had expansion plans that included as many as 50 new workers in the next five years.
``Forty-eight hours later, we were under water and totally shut down,'' Smith said in a July 5 telephone interview.
Now, Cellect is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and state and local organizations as it attempts to dry out its 110,000-square-foot facility. Smith said the preliminary estimate is $10 million in damage, but electricity has been restored and he is hoping the company will be up and running in a matter of weeks.
``We're not actually in the flood plain. We're about a half-mile away. Nothing like this has ever happened before,'' said Smith, unable to describe how the Mohawk River found its way into his facility.
``It is a tragedy. This company had brought hope to a regional economy and its people - then as quickly as that, came around and was transformed and brought to a standstill by a storm that flooded most of the county,'' said New York Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who helped Cellect get the Empire Zone status.
Smith said there was heavy rain, possibly as much as several inches in one hour. On June 28, water started pouring under the door of the building in the morning. The staff was told by emergency officials to evacuate about 2 p.m.
``My primary concern is on behalf of my employees,'' said Smith, who met with Department of Labor officials to try to get fast-track emergency benefits for them. He said many employees have to deal with flooded homes as well.
Smith said his suppliers have been supportive and are helping out.
Cellect is one company affected by the severe rains during late June, but there undoubtedly are others. Since June 30, numerous counties in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware have been declared federal disaster areas through a presidential decree.
Remcon President Peter Connors said in a July 6 telephone interview that his company had been planning to move its structural foam equipment to a building across the street that housed its rotational molding division.
However, the unexpected rainfall caused the river to overflow its banks and leave 5 feet of water in the 60,000-square-foot structural foam facility. The water stopped at the front door of its 80,000-square-foot rotomolding plant.
``Right now, our rotomolding is still up and running. Our foam, we're thinking, will take 60-120 days to rebuild the equipment and move it,'' said Connors.
The damage is covered by insurance, he said. Preliminary damage estimates range from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Remcon also is filling out forms for FEMA.
``Still, it's just a mess,'' Connors said.
He said 15 employees have been laid off and are eligible for federal assistance.
The firm cleaned out the building, and products were spread out over an acre and a half to dry out, Connors said. One customer sent a truck to transport molds to a company that will clean and rebuild them.
``It's been heartwarming to see how people have come to help,'' said Connors, noting that officials, firefighters, neighbors and customers all pitched in.
He said the company is pushing on with its plans to move all of its equipment into the rotomolding facility. Then, it plans to sell the other building.