On The Mend

Auto Recyclers Support Disaster Victims



Spring storms are a common occurrence. But in 2011, Mother Nature has been particularly nasty. Deadly tornadoes, floods and fires plagued multiple corners of the United States. While the devastation has been horrific, a bright spot is the people and communities that arose from the rubble to support each other. Auto recyclers are in the forefront for cleanup and goodwill.

Tsunami Hits Japan

On March 11, 2011, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan sparked a tsunami that ravaged the Asian nation. The quake and 30-foot waves destroyed thousands of homes, made roads impassable and crippled nuclear power plants. The death toll in May exceeded 15,000.

The insurmountable amount of cleanup was tackled head-on by Japanese auto recyclers. Steve Fletcher, executive director, Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC, AutoRecyclers.ca), is in contact with a Japan Automotive Recyclers Association (JARA, NPO-JARA.org) representative who said one auto recycler's business was wiped out, but he still moved damaged vehicles. That same JARA member picked up more than 1,000 vehicles, with an estimated additional 150,000 still to be retired.

JARA members set up a blog to record their efforts. On May 13, 2011, a post stated, "About two months have passed since the disasters. The affected areas have been slightly restored by the power of many people; the coast is still going to take some time."

Tornado Alley

While the world reeled from Japan's disaster, residents in the southern United States witnessed 250 tornadoes on a single day in late April 2011. More than 350 people died, 210 in Alabama alone (see box for more on the Alabama tornadoes). It was the deadliest tornado outbreak in almost 40 years. State Farm Insurance said it paid out nearly $215 million on 133,000 claims related to the tornadoes and other storms.

Two days earlier, on April 25, 2011, a tornado nearly wiped out the small town (population 4,000) of Vilonia, Ark. Four people died in the storm that tore roofs off buildings and tossed vehicles into the air. That cell brought the state's storm-related deaths to 14.

Susie Linn-McCoy, co-owner of Linn's Auto & Equipment Sales (LinnsAuto.com) and her family live about eight miles from Vilonia in Conway, Ark.

"We were at my house and saw the funnel cloud," she said. "It took our trampoline and threw it in the woods, which isn't a big deal, but it destroyed everything behind us. It went down the highway and did a lot of damage."

The company rallied the next day. It hauled out its large grill used for promotional events to cook 900 hot dogs and hamburgers for volunteers. Linn's Auto & Equipment Sales also adopted a family with three children who lost everything. The family found a new house and the business furnished it. Its 17 employees donated money, which the company matched.

"We threw in a little extra and also found companies to give us deals on furniture and TVs," added Linn-McCoy.

Linn's Auto & Equipment Sales continues to pick up tornado-damaged vehicles.

"We are so far behind right now," Linn-McCoy acknowledged. "We're getting calls for campers and boats but we still can't get to some of them. The community pulled together and is making a lot of headway cleaning up."

Missouri Heartache

In early May, southeast Missouri fought massive flooding due to April's record rainfall and the rising Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

To compound matters, an EF5 tornado killed more than 150 people on the other side of the state in Joplin, Mo. on May 22, 2011 - the highest death toll from a single tornado in more than 50 years. Winds exceeding 200 mph destroyed the town of 49,000.

43 Auto Recycling, in Joplin, Mo. (43Auto.com), is located about a mile and a half from the tornado's path. Co-owner Rhonda Fanning said many family members and friends lost homes or were injured. The company sprang into action to help them.

"Anyone we knew who got a hold of us, we took our trucks out to help them save what they could," Fanning noted.

Fanning and husband, co-owner Jim Fanning, then sent a car hauler, box truck and several pickups out to anyone who called for help. Rhonda said the business hauled vehicles out of houses, basements, etc. All of 43 Auto Recycling's employees and their families volunteered with AmeriCorps (AmeriCorps.gov). The company also used its trucks to transport volunteers.

Looking Ahead

Summer 2011 is poised to be just as challenging for many other parts of the country. The Missouri River is spilling its banks from Montana to Missouri. And the second largest fire in Arizona history has forced thousands of residents to relocate. Although current or upcoming natural disasters may affect many auto recyclers, even more will be there to help protect communities and rebuild neighborhoods.

Firetruck Bar-B-Que To The Rescue

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, an EF4 tornado directly hit Arab, Ala., a small town (population 8,000) about 70 miles north of Birmingham, Ala. The tornado's 170-mph winds destroyed homes and killed five family members.

On Friday, April 29 2011, Arab was still without power or water and struggling to feed rescue workers and volunteers. Someone told the local power company about Ken Ledbetter's fire truck rebuilt as a mobile smoker, complete with its own generator, sink, warmers, beer taps and flat-screen TVs. At noon, the power company called and asked Ledbetter to come cook.

"They had no help," said Ledbetter, weekend barbecue chef and full-time Hollander, a Solera company employee (Audatex.us). "Very few people can cook 2,400 sandwiches at a time."

Ledbetter personally fronted the cash for 100 Boston Butts, or pork shoulders, and by 2 p.m. that same day, he and good friend Lonnie Rushing headed north to Arab.

"When we pulled up, they thought the Calvary had arrived," said Ledbetter. "They hadn't had power in three days. We put in a Stevie Nicks' concert cd and they had it wide open."

Several volunteers filled coolers with 250 sandwiches at a time and drove them out to workers. By 4 p.m. on Saturday, they had served 2,400 sandwiches and 400 - 500 pounds of donated chicken, which Ledbetter also cooked. The fire truck pulled out on Sunday.

It was a great first run for Firetruck Bar-B-Que (FireTruckBBQ.net), but unexpected, like the donations Ledbetter received.

"I told Lonnie we really need to cook for somebody. Thirty minutes later I got a call from this power company," said Ledbetter. "And 30 minutes later I was talking to Ken Anderson and Steve Holland (owners of Brandon Auto Salvage in Valrico, Fla., BrandonAuto.com) and Ken said FADRA will donate some money."

FADRA (FADRA.org) donated $2,000 for the meat, LKQ Birmingham (LKQCorp.com) donated $1,000 and Bill Rutherford and Brad Rutherford, owners of Budget Auto Parts in Auburndale, Fla. (BudgetFL.com) donated $500.

 

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