Iconic Tour

Businesses that jump into action after a natural disaster

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With Hurricane Matthew set to deliver a devastating blow to eastern Florida on Thursday night, then continuing its siege farther north, up the coast to Georgia and the Carolinas, residents are bracing for the worst: damage to their homes, property or worse. Many companies will be hard-hit as well, forced to close early or become victim to power outages or flooding. The upshot will be an economic hit in the billions.

Yet, for some businesses the threat of damaging winds and storm surges can mean the start of a busy season. Here are a few businesses that jump into action when natural disasters strike.


Rosemary Calvert | Moment Mobile ED | Getty Images

With Hurricane Matthew already being blamed for more than 100 deaths in the Caribbean, according to local authorities, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued a serious warning to 1.5 million residents in danger zones to "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate." The storm also means flight cancellations are piling up at press time nearly 2,700 flights had been canceled through Friday in anticipation of the storm stranding thousands of people in airports. As a result, hotels are booked solid, often upping the price of rooms exponentially.

Disaster cleanup

Ken Cedeno | Corbis | Getty Images

Water main breaks, fire and harsh rainstorms keep disaster cleanup services busy day to day, but when a natural disaster strikes, these companies are called on to help out anywhere in the country for weeks on end, tending to flooded basements and cleaning up debris. The revenue of a disaster restoration business is driven by natural disasters — one major storm can garner a couple million dollars' worth of business.

Forensic weather experts

Hurricane specialist Lixion Avila tracks the path of Hurricane Matthew at the National Hurricane Center, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee | AP

If your property is damaged due to a natural disaster, you will most likely need to gather information for litigation or mediation purposes. This includes verifying wind speeds and/or the height of a storm surge at a specific time and location. A forensic meteorology and weather expert can provide comprehensive and site-specific analysis of past weather events affecting your specific case.

Self-storage units

Evelyn Hockstein | The Washington Post | Getty Images

As homeowners prepare for reconstruction, the demand for self-storage units rises considerably. And small businesses damaged in the storm often vie for the extra space as well as they scramble to save their inventory. Yet it's hard to say if they will be lucky enough to find a unit to store their wares: The self-storage industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. commercial real estate industry, with total rentable storage space in the United States covering more than three times the size of Manhattan.

Tree-removal companies

Susan Biddle | The Washington Post | Getty Images

High winds, especially those from a Category 4 Hurricane, can gust 100 miles per hour or more and leave unprecedented destruction in its wake. Weather forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Matthew will churn sustained winds of 140 miles per hour by the time it nears Florida.

Even the healthiest trees are vulnerable, often wiping out power lines, crushing houses and cars and blocking roads. The damage can happen in an instant, yet the cleanup can take months, costing anywhere from $200 to $1,500 depending on the size of the fallen tree.

Auto-repair shops

Gary Douglas-Beet | Getty Images

Flooding, accidents and tree damage wreak havoc on automobiles. In 2013 the damage after Hurricane Sandy resulted in 54,642 auto claims in New Jersey, with insurance companies paying out more than $530 million to auto-repair shops. In New York claims nearly reached 110,000, with auto-repair shops hauling in $1.5 billion.

Hardware stores

People purchasing plywood at Home Depot in Miami, Florida.
Gaston de Cardenas | AFP | Getty Images

With batteries, flashlights, bags of sand, portable generators and plywood at the top of every hurricane survival-kit checklist, people are flocking to box stores such as BJs and Home Depot, as well as every mom-and-pop hardware store, to stock up. Many stores are opening hours earlier than usual to accommodate the rush.

Grocery stores

Customers browse empty shelves at a Publix Super Markets store ahead of Hurricane Matthew making landfall in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.
Mark Elias | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Demand is so high before a major storm that grocery stores work nonstop with their vendors to up their deliveries to every hour. First to go: bread, water and ice. Keeping up with the demand is difficult — yet the long lines at the register can be even tougher to deal with.