Sandy boosts business for local plumbers, electricians

October 31, 2012

Moe Haislip’s team of electricians and plumbers has been working 16-hour shifts this week, and many are on their third pair of boots in as many days. But even with all hands on deck, his company is struggling to keep pace with an influx of calls from homeowners and business owners because of Hurricane Sandy.

“Our business is up probably 30 or 40 percent,” said Haislip, owner of Alexandria-based John C. Flood. “Our regular customers are calling to make sure their equipment is working properly, and then there are a ton of new customers calling with emergencies or needing repairs. We’re staying busy around the clock.”

John C. Flood is among a number of service providers that saw business jump since the hurricane, which left billions of dollars of damage and more than 100,000 people without power in the Washington metropolitan area.

Basim Mansour, owner of Michael & Son Services in Washington, said his call volume rose 20 percent this week and plumbing-related sales alone are up roughly 35 percent. His company provides plumbing, electrical and air conditioning services and, like Haislip, his staff has responded to a large volume of calls from homeowners with flooded basements, most of them the result of broken generators and powerless sump pumps, he said.

“So many people are calling for sump pumps and battery-powered backup sump pumps,” Mansour said. “In almost every aspect of our business, we have seen an increase in calls as a result of the storm.”

Much of the region’s electricity is expected to be restored by week’s end, but power companies have warned of new outages as weakened trees continue to fall on power lines. Also, several days of heavy rain left an excess of water that has yet to settle into the ground, and that could create more plumbing and sewage problems in the weeks ahead.

“When you have saturation like this, you’re going to start to see some problems with the plumbing outside the house, with the sewers and water lines,” said Mark Presgrave, owner of My Plumber of Manassas.

Presgrave noted that he overcompensated for a lack of planning before previous storms by stocking about 300 battery-powered sump-pump converters for those in need after the hurricane. So far, his company has sold 80, leaving him searching for buyers in New Jersey and New York.

Lawn-care services have seen a similar uptick in customer calls, but not as much as they experienced after June’s derecho. Spencerville-based Turf Center Lawns has seen a 25 percent increase in calls since the storm, according to office assistant Sandy Quattrone.

After the June storm, she noticed a 40 percent increase in calls, which led the company to hire additional workers. There are no plans to do that this time around.

Other small businesses said they expect more calls once homeowners find out whether their insurance will cover any damage. Shortly after June’s storm, Mike Barnes, owner of Get Rid of It, a hauling company in Falls Church, received about 120 calls a week, up from his normal 70 a week, and he expects a similar but perhaps slightly smaller increase in requests in the weeks ahead.

The bump may help him “keep guys I would have had to let go,” Barnes said.

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