When we got news of Hurricane Sandy’s imminent arrival, like many East Coast residents, we wondered whether the dire predictions would prove to be yet another false alarm. Little did we know that the storm would be all the meteorologists promised—and more.
Monday, October 29, is a day we will not soon forget here at NY International Shipping. Hurricane Sandy barreled her way toward New York and brought operations at the company to a grinding halt.
With things at NY International Shipping unavoidably shut down, my husband David and I—co-owners of the business—turned our attention toward keeping our family safe. We had lost power in our home and were forced to take refuge at a friend’s house with our three children to wait out the storm.
It wasn’t until two days after Hurricane Sandy made her devastating pass through New York that the severity of our situation began to hit home. Fortunately, our warehouse in Jersey City did not flood, although it lost power in the storm. Because of the lack of cell phone service, we had to scramble in search of landlines that were still operational so that we could contact customers to cancel scheduled moves. Clinging to the hope and belief that things would not remain as dire as they seemed, we directed our time and attention toward reaching our customers. Left with nothing more than the gas in the tanks of our trucks and no way to get more, we completed what shipments we could, working out of the nearest open Starbucks with cell service.
NY International Shipping was forced to remain closed for an entire week after Hurricane Sandy—we were at the mercy of technology, and effectively cut off from the world as a result of lack of power or phones. Knowing that customers would be desperate to contact us, we began e-mailing them and using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to try to update them about our situation. Many of our clients had to cancel their scheduled relocations and we were powerless to provide any alternative solutions. As the cancellations began to roll in and the number of new customers able to reach us flat lined, we were left with a startling realization: Our world had come to a complete stop, but the world around us was still turning and we had to catch up however we could.
We remained positive, but began to draw out an emergency plan. It wasn’t until November 3 that power was restored in our warehouse and our entire staff was able to travel to the NY International Shipping warehouse in Jersey City so that we could work together from one location. Some of them traveled three hours to get to work while standing additional hours in line just to get tickets to the only means of transportation available at that time.
Although our warehouse is obviously not set up for the purpose of functioning as the administrative hub of NY International Shipping, we made it work. We were offered a temporary office space shortly after that and this is the location we are still currently working from.
Days after Hurricane Sandy, we have yet to return to normal. We are surviving. We currently have 17 staff members working in four cubicles while the rest sit at makeshift desks made out of plastic tables and chairs we’ve purchased for the interim. It took approximately two weeks before we were able forward our phone lines. Each day we travel to our old office to pull more files, office equipment, computers, chairs, etc.—traveling up and down six flights of stairs on foot with armloads to bring back to our temporary office. Unfortunately, our office building was flooded, and six feet of salt water in the basement ate through the copper and severely damaged the electrical system. Although the water has been drained, the damage is immense; we have been notified that we may be able to return to the building by January 2013. Many people are unaware that in the Financial District quite a few businesses remain closed and the Brooklyn Tunnel has only just been reopened.
As the co-owners of NY International Shipping, my husband David and I have to be strong and look toward the future. We know that we will overcome these obstacles and come out stronger and better in the end. We refuse to allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity. We have hired additional staff to help us increase our sales efforts and hope to begin to turn things around by the close of 2012. We are thankful every day that although we have lost a great deal, we are still alive and healthy.
We are also focusing our efforts on helping those around us. We are asking any of our customers with items such as furniture, canned food, diapers, and other necessities to donate them to us so that we can deliver them to those still affected by Hurricane Sandy. NY International Shipping is a company of strength and integrity and we believe that while we may not be in the best position ourselves, if there is a will to help there is a way to help.
We are grateful to the agents that have allowed us to remain a competitive force in the shipping industry. And above all, we are thankful to our wonderful staff who pulled through and worked from home, using cell phones as scanners and being innovative and loyal. Also, we would like to thank you, our customers, who continue to show their support and love for NY International Shipping. Even Hurricane Sandy couldn’t knock us down.