Hurricane Michael recovery efforts underway at Tallahassee garden centers

Hurricane Michael recovery efforts underway at Tallahassee garden centers

Although Florida's capital city was not hit as hard as predicted, businesses and residents are still dealing with power outages, downed lines and damage.

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October 17, 2018
By Michelle Simakis
Industry News

Photo of Greenbrier Nurseries in Roanoke, Virginia, which experienced flooding in the wake of Hurricane Michael, courtesy of Jim Monroe. 

Although the capital city of Florida was considered spared compared to other areas of the state that were devastated by Hurricane Michael, Tallahassee residents and business owners are still dealing with the destruction from the category 4 storm. 

Hurricane Michael still brought more than 70-mile-per-hour winds and knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers in the Tallahassee area, according to articles published by the Tallahassee Democrat.  

As of Monday, Oct. 15, about 10,000 were still out of power. Although Tallahassee Nurseries, No. 62 on Garden Center magazine’s Top 100 Independent Garden Center’s list, has power, they have been closed for close to a week due to downed lines.

“We were able to protect the vast majority of product in a salable condition. The greenhouse damage could have been worse; a top panel will need to be replaced but [there was] no structural damage,” according to Josh Olive, marketing director. “The biggest impact we’re having now is power. We have power but have several downed power lines and poles.”

ALSO READ: The horticulture industry responds to Hurricane Michael 
As communities in areas hit by the storm begin the recovery process, so do greenhouses and nurseries.

Olive says that luckily, everyone on the staff was safe and no one was injured from the storm. For now, they are trying to prepare as much as possible for when they can reopen.

“The city is working hard to get out to us, but we don’t have a date on when they will be here to fix the power situation making it safe for customers. Last year, we were closed three days for hurricane Irma and have been closed now for 5 and a half days,” Olive said on Monday, Oct. 15. “It will definitely have a sales impact for the month and final numbers on the year.”

While they were not able to help customers in person after the storm, Tallahassee Nurseries has developed blog posts about what to do in the aftermath of a hurricane and how to restore your landscape to help residents recover.

ALSO READ: Hurricane Michael Recovery: Gainous Shade Trees
The Georgia nursery had to move fast to get back in business after the hurricane.

Reports from the Tallahassee Democrat indicted destruction from the storm was random. About 2 miles away from Tallahassee Nurseries at Esposito Garden Center, John Penn, head of operations for landscaping and maintenance, said they lost power last Thursday but were able to open the store thanks to generators.

“The storm was pretty bad, and a lot of people in Tallahassee still don’t have power,” Penn says. “As you can imagine, we had a lot of plants that fell over, and we had a few trees fall. We were spared pretty good. It was a dirty mess, but we needed to clean up anyway.”

The store sells hardware supplies, as well, and has been selling mostly generators, gas cans and chain saws. Penn says although they were prepared for a storm, they weren’t prepared for the “vast devastation” that Hurricane Michael brought nor the hundreds of phone calls they received inquiring about recovery supplies. As of Wednesday, Oct. 17, they had sold more than 200 generators and 100 chain saws, in addition to gas cans they had ordered in the summer. They advertised this on Facebook and also invited customers without power to come in to walk through the store and enjoy the beauty of the garden. 

“No power? Need to get out of the house? Come take a stroll through our garden. It’s free, and the weather is great right now,” the post read. 

Penn said that sod suppliers were hit hard, and that has affected the landscaping division, but compared to others, Esposito was very much lucky.