Dealers collect what’s left following Hurricane Michael

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Photographs shared by the John Lee dealers show major damage – including insulation, piping and roofing material – on the inside of his Mazda dealer. Photo credit: JOHN LEE MAZDA

In an unrecognizable landscape of devastation and destruction left on the path of Hurricane Michael, dealers in Florida and Georgia continue to collect what is still under the wreckage caused by the Category 4 storm.

Five days after the storm full of maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, several dealers in the Panhandle of Florida and in Georgia remained closed, some suffering considerable damage. Nissan, Ford and Honda reported that at least some of their dealers in the two states have no power. Some stores have lost the inventory.

John Lee owns John Lee Nissan, John Lee's Panama City Mazda and a second hand store in Panama City, Fla., Which were all damaged.

Lee has six buildings on the property – the Nissan facility is the best off, he said. But every building needs new roofs and if they are not considered a complete loss, they must be stripped, he said. Insurance adjusters are on-site and the power is expected to be restored in ten days, Lee Automotive News said on Monday. His employees are safe, although many have lost their home, he said. Yet many have come to help, Lee said.

"We are just trying to immediately recover to save what we can," he said. "We know that rain falls within a few days, so we try to protect what we can."

Photographs shared by the John Lee dealers show major damage – including insulation, piping and roofing material – on the inside of his Mazda dealer. Mazda's in the showroom can be seen covered with debris and there are lights in the showroom. Windows seems to have been blown up and blue sky was visible through what was once the dealer's roof.

"Our team is working hard to get the dealership in order, no electricity, no water in the whole city," said Lauren Burton, internet sales manager at Nissan and Mazda, in an email to Automotive News. "Fortunately all our employees are safe and our team is stronger than ever."

Lee said most of the dealers in Panama City were damaged.

"All dealers have experienced almost the same, except for one: Group 1 owns a Honda Volkswagen dealer that was only built a few years ago, and they were doing very well, they had no damage I could see." he said. "The rest of the Panama City dealers are almost in the same boat I am in, roofs are being called off, buildings are imploding, inventory is pretty bad."

Ford Motor Co. confirmed on Monday that five dealers in Florida and Georgia were still shut down after hurricane Michael, with significant physical damage at AutoNation Ford Panama City, Bay Lincoln in Panama City and Sunbelt Ford-Lincoln of Albany, Georgia, said Sherrice Gilsbach, a spokesman for Ford, in an e-mail to Automotive News. Bay Lincoln was badly damaged and Sunbelt Ford is open despite damage, she said.

AutoNation Ford Panama City had no power and inventory was affected. Henry Arnold Ford Co. in Graceville, Fla., North of Panama City near the border with Alabama, and Chipola Ford in Marianna, Fla., had no power, while RiverBend Ford in Bainbridge, Georgia, north of Tallahassee, had no electricity, telephone service nor internet according to Ford.

Photo credit: JOHN LEE MAZDA

Total damage account

The full recovery of the affected communities can take years. A preliminary estimate of damage by Moody's Analytics on Friday ranges from $ 15 billion to $ 21 billion.

AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling company, said Monday in a statement that the industry-assured losses due to hurricane Michael winds and storm surge surge range from $ 6 billion to $ 10 billion. Those figures do not include precipitation-induced floods and losses paid by the National Flood Insurance program, AIR Worldwide said.

Insurer State Farm told Automotive News Monday that it has received approximately 2,520 total car claims in the states hit by Hurricane Michael, a figure that is expected to increase as customers discover and report vehicle damage. Of the total car claims, 1,290 were from Florida, 840 in Georgia, 390 in North Carolina and 390 in Virginia, State Farm said.

Some dealers will be able to open faster than others.

Nissan said that all dealers affected by Hurricane Michael, except John Lee Nissan and Miller & Miller Nissan in Marianna, Florida, have reopened. Miller & Miller Nissan is closed due to a power outage that is expected to be recovered by the end of the week, said a Nissan spokeswoman.

Honda from Bay County in Panama City, Florida, has reported no inventory damage and expects a reopening on Wednesday, said Jessica Pawl, a spokesperson for Honda. Albany Honda in Albany, Georgia, is open, but operates from an outhouse because the power is off, she said.