BIG MUDDY

Flood Waters Damage New Kosiski Site



Kosiski Auto Parts manager Tony Sequenzia stands in front of the new self-service section at the South Sioux City, Neb. facility.

In the summer of 2011, the Missouri river caused floods in Montana to Missouri. Record snowfall and rain in the Rocky Mountains caused six major dams to release water at levels more than double the previous record. On May 1, 2011, Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, S.D. released 45,000 cubic feet of water per second. By the end of the month, 77,000 was release and in June and July, 160,700 cubic feet per second was released. That huge amount of water forced an already swollen Missouri to spill it banks in the Sioux City, Iowa metro area, which includes Dakota Dunes, S.D. and South Sioux City, Neb.

A year before the flood in 2010, Omaha, Neb.-based Kosiski Auto Parts, Inc. bought A-1 Auto Parts in South Sioux City, a facility roughly two blocks from the Missouri River. The business employed six people and had approximately 1,250 vehicles onsite. The vehicles sat on dirt and grass. Kosiski Auto Parts employee Tony Sequenzia moved to South Sioux City to manage the company's new facility.

"It had a basic layout," he said, "but there was no uniformity."

Long-used paths caused low spots in the yard caused rainwater to pool and the buildings were full of old parts. The 13 acres was fenced only on three sides. The fourth side consisted of a row of pine trees. Random trees grew throughout the property and yard as well. The facility had several buildings, but most were filled with old parts.

"We pretty much cleaned it out and redid almost everything," Sequenzia admitted.

To being with, the new Kosiski Auto Parts location was fenced and trees were removed. Weed killer was sprayed throughout the property. But the biggest change was a $50,000 re-grade of the property where the yard was sloped for proper drainage and gravel was added. The inventory was also updated.

"We took over on May 24, but we couldn't make as many changes as we wanted because by the time the paperwork was finished, it was October," Sequenzia explained. "We only had six months before the flood hit."

Rising Water

The following May, just when the Missouri began to rise, owner Steve Kosiski and Sequenzia heard about a neighbor, between them and the river, that had flood water. The two decided to take a walk to the back of their property to check things out. They saw water had not only found its way under the fence, but was already under some vehicles. Kosiski and Sequenzia pulled as many vehicles from the water as they could with a loader.

"For two weeks, all day all night, Steve and I had the loaders going moving cars to higher ground," said Sequenzia.

Higher-value vehicles were moved to the front parking lot and some even to Sequenzia's two-acre front yard, which sits next to the property.

"I had cars everywhere you could move in my front yard," he remembered. "There were just wall-to-wall cars."

South Sioux City officials and the Army Corp of Engineers built a 7,000-foot-long earthen wall around the city. The wall ran right through Kosiski Auto Parts' property, up to its buildings, but prevented the water from reaching inside, although three-fourths of the facility was still underwater.

"It came up real quick and then it kind of just inched its way along every day," said Sequenzia. "The city told us it was supposed to higher than it actually did. If the water had cleared the dike, all of South Sioux City would have flooded and we would have bigger problems. We're lucky it never got there, but the dike was the only thing stopping that."

The water did completely cover the facility's seven-foot fence and Sequenzia predicts it got as deep as 12 feet.

"When it was all said and done, we had about 300 vehicles either under water, touched by water or somehow damaged by the water," he added.

Clean Up Time

Once the water receded, Kosiski and Sequenzia surveyed the damage. The new fence now has a permanent stain and was damaged by floating debris. The newly-graded property had large holes and chunks created by ripples in the water.

They got to work and scrapped all of the damaged vehicles. The yard was re-graded, but this time the facility's loaders and a road grader were used. Holes were drilled at the bottom of each fence post so the water could drain before winter. And, more vehicles were dismantled to gain space.

A bright spot was the facility was able to use all of the sand from the thousands of sandbags used throughout the city.

"We volunteered to have the city bring the sand bags here," recalled Sequenzia. "We used the sand to fill the holes. It was a win-win."

The flood actually allowed the company to create a self-service section on the property, A-1 Crashed Cars. The self-service area is fenced off from the full-service and serves as a cost effective way to pull parts.

Back On Track

Kosiski Auto Parts also got back to work transforming the large metal, dismantling building into offices that mirror those at the Omaha location.

"Right before the flood hit we just started planning and framing up the new offices," explained Sequenzia. "We're just now getting back to that. But I would say time is the biggest thing we lost. You can replace the land, vehicles, but your time is lost and that is never coming back."

That includes the time the new owners took to win over customers. Kosiski Auto Parts was trying to build a foundation with local customers, many of whom worked with A-1 Auto Parts. Kosiski and Sequenzia focused on getting clean, accurate parts to the customers by the next day.

"When you're trying to push to have the better quality and service than everyone else, you can't slow up when you're dealing with your disaster," stated Sequenzia. "That made it tough. You're still working, still going and trying to keep your yard and service at the same level while dealing with this all at the same time. You just have to work harder."

Today, the facility is back to 100 percent. Nearly 1,200 vehicles, all makes and models, sit in the yard, although the less valuable ones now sit near the back.

"You can't sit there and plan and wait for the next disaster," said Sequenzia. "You just have to set up the business the best way and if something starts happening again, you have to make your move.

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