Orlando, Fla. — Plastics-related businesses in Florida were spared major damage from Hurricane Irma, with many resuming activities a few days after the storm, according to companies contacted by Plastics News.
Lasting power outages were the main challenge preventing some companies from immediately resuming activities after the storm, with many of their employees also suffering from lack of power in their homes.
Right after the storm passed the state on Sept. 11, 6.7 million homes and businesses in Florida did not have power. As of the morning of Sept. 15, 1.9 million were still without power, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Orlando was under a curfew until 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 after the storm had passed through the region and many processors had not been able to reach their sites any sooner than Sept. 12.
Preparation pre-storm has helped companies to avoid major damages. Downtime in most of the production sites was brief, and not enough to justify transferring production to other locations some companies have around the country.
“We lost a couple large storage awnings out back at our Hialeah location, and our building over in North Miami is doing just fine,” said Ryan Wiborg, vice president of operations at American Vinyl Co.
“Our main facility is built like a storm bunker and strategically set on high ground about as far inland as you can get in South Florida. The major hurdle was losing power, which we suspected could happen, which is why we have a tractor trailer-sized generator at the ready to keep us moving.”
Wiborg said power was quickly restored by Florida Power & Light after the storm, not affecting production. After the storm had passed, American Vinyl is seeing a surge in orders for construction-related materials and a general uptick in other product lines.
“I suspect it's out of an abundance of caution. With a major storm like this, everyone looks to secure resources ahead of time to keep things moving afterwards. Fortunately we are doing a great job at keeping up with the demand,” he said.
Simtec Silicone Parts' location in Miramar did not see any damage. The plant opened and began ramping up the machines on Sept. 12.
“We are already back at full production, but we plan to be open for extended hours to make up for the short time that we were closed,” customer service specialist Heidi Crume answered in a Sept. 15 email.
Operations at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics' location in Clearwater resumed on Sept. 12 with minimal down time, after suffering no structural or property damage from Hurricane Irma.
“Our employees have experienced power outages at their homes and we are doing everything we can to support them during this time,” spokeswoman Felicia Melvin said via email. “Despite the challenges our employees may be facing at home, they remain committed to coming to work to serve our customers resulting in very minimal impacts to our production schedule.”
Inteplast Group's two locations in Orlando suffered no damage, with the exception of dock shrouds, awnings and a fence that will need repair or replacement at one of the sites, according to Brenda Wilson, senior director of human resources and communications.
“The damage is so minimal that the repairs can be done in-house,” she said via email. The company resumed production for its second shift on Sept. 12.
Bag maker Novolex's Orlando and Jacksonville facilities did not sustain any damage from the storm and resumed operations on Sept. 13, according to Chief Operating Officer Ben Mascarello.
“This was a big storm and we know that it caused a lot of damage across the state,” he said. “We are grateful that we fared so well.”
Hurricane Irma affected Florida from coast-to-coast as it proceeded north, leaving broad-based flooding, power outages, fallen trees and debris. The storm made landfall in the Florida Keys on the morning of Sept. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane. By the time it reached central Florida on that night, it had declined in strength to a Category 1.
At Legacy Custom Plastics LLC, a family-owned injection molding business in St. Petersburg, power was restored by the morning of Sept. 11. The company resumed operations on Sept 12., but phones and internet still weren't working on Sept. 15, according to owner Darryl Crowe.
Ayanna Plastics & Engineering Inc., an injection molding company based in Clearwater, suffered no damage, but also did not have internet and phone services as of the morning of Sept. 15, when production was running normally, according to Vice President Tammy Redmond.
American Elite Molding LLC in Crestview, on Florida's panhandle, sent an email to customers saying the company was fully operational and did not suffer any ill effects from Hurricane Irma.
“We never lost power and remain fully staffed. We did not experience any disruptions and are producing at full capacity,” the company wrote. “We stand ready to help with recovery efforts in any way we can. In fact, our vice president of corporate development, Barbara Mitchell, will be headed out with a team from Career Source to South Florida as soon as it is possible.”
Amcor Rigid Plastics USA LLC's manufacturing plant in Orlando and Latin American office in Miramar suffered minimal damages and expected to be in full operation by Sept. 15, the company said in an email.