- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It hasn’t been raining only outside: Phone calls are pouring into businesses that repair storm damage to buildings.

“It’s just insane — insane. We’ve had more than a hundred calls a day,” said David Reid, co-owner of Family Roofing in Columbia, Md. His business normally receives five to eight calls a day on minor repairs. Now he is getting calls about falling roofs and cascading leaks every hour of the workday.

Since rain and storms struck neighborhoods this week, his business and others in the Washington area have been flooded with repair requests. Now, business owners must juggle their workers so they can respond to multiple requests.

“A lot of times, you can’t get to everybody because there’s so much demand,” Mr. Reid said. “You try to do with the worst-case scenarios first. You have to make the priorities first.”

“Like, if someone says, ‘If there’s anybody who could come right now, it’s coming into my bedroom and there’s a water flow.’,” he said.

Small businesses that don’t have large staffs may feel the brunt of the huge demand. So it might be necessary to respond to existing customers first, said Melissa Hunt, office manager of Affordable Stump and Tree Removal in Springfield.

“Doing all of it is really hard unless you have a really big business. We’ve got to do the best we can. You can only get to so many calls a day. [People] are looking for the first guy who can show up with a chain saw in their lawn to take care of business,” she said. “We’re trying to take care of our current customers.”

Answering so many people’s calls can be a bit overwhelming, said Ashley Bee, administrative assistant at McConkey & Keane Inc. roofing and contracting in Beltsville.

“We’re swamped. We’re getting so many phone calls from people to come out right away,” said Ms. Bee, who sounded exhausted on the phone midday yesterday. “Everybody is in a rush, and they’re just thinking they are the only ones that [have buildings] leaking.”

Ms. Bee said the business is receiving almost 30 calls a day about plugged-up gutters and broken skylights, compared with the normal eight.

This means about three times as much potential to make money.

Mr. Reid said some roofing companies charge up to $200 just to come to a caller’s house and inspect the damage. And companies can charge anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 to fix or replace roofs, he said.

Some businesses are changing their schedules and rules just to answer to the volume of calls. Kareen Deberry, assistant office manager of Kuhn’s Tree Service in Silver Spring, said phone calls have doubled.

“The phone usually starts ringing at 6 a.m., when nobody is here,” she said. “We usually don’t work in the rain, but on Monday and Tuesday our crew had to because it was an emergency. [Callers] had trees on their houses.”

“We’ve only done emergency work. For right now, we have to. And our customers are understanding of it,” she said.

Homeowners aren’t the only ones calling the repair businesses. Larry Fellenz, vice president of Action Tank & Drain Service in Manassas Park, Va., said he has been on the phone with mostly businesses, such as hospitals and offices.

“We’re getting more calls from new commercial customers,” he said. “A lot of buildings are flooded out in their basements. T

he building’s not operational until we get the water out of there. It’s extremely important. Do you have any idea how many people can’t work because they don’t have electricity and air conditioning?”

Even after there is no more water to pump out and no more trees to clean up, other businesses will have their turns.

Mold can take up to 72 hours to grow once it’s inside, said Joan Wilson, office manager of Environmental Solutions in Deale, Md., which inspects and tests for mold.

“We’ve [heard] we’re going to get slammed next week,” she said. “First they’re getting the water out of the place. As soon as the rain stops, it’s going to be crazy.

I mean, we’ve got people saying, ‘I’ve got mold growing now.’”

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