Jewelers Begin Recovery from Hurricane Ike

Jewelers from Texas to Ohio this week are recovering from the harmful effects of Hurricane Ike, and various jewelry industry groups are helping them.

Hurricane Ike—a storm as large as the state of Texas—wreaked havoc Sept. 12-14 from eastern Louisiana through the Texas Gulf coast, especially in and around Galveston, Tex., before heading north to Houston and through America’s Midwest. It killed at least 39 people in 10 states (none known to be jewelers); flooded hundreds of miles of coastline; cut off power to millions of people; drenched and wind-blasted numerous towns and cities; and caused water, flood and wind damages estimated at above $20 billion, making it the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Katrina (2005) and Andrew (1992).

At press time, there were no reports of death or serious injury to jewelers or their families, though a number in the affected states reported power outages and some damages, according to a check by JCK of various jewelry industry groups.

Some groups were already prepared for Hurricane Ike, because of other natural disaster earlier this summer.

* Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, for example, already had adjusters in the region in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav (Sept. 1), and they were in Texas and other areas devastated by Ike by the afternoon of Sept. 15, after authorities gave permission to enter.

There were “up to 20 loss claims, as of Sept. 16, in Texas, including a couple significant ones, and more will be coming in over the next few days,” said Jeffrey A. Mills, JMI Vice President for Commercial Lines Operations. “We also have claims from Illinois and Ohio as a result of this storm.”

The insurance company, he said, had “a couple hundred policyholders in the hurricane’s direct path, not including those areas affected by spin-offs from the hurricane, like tornados.”

Mills told JCK it is too early to give over loss estimate totals.

Jewelers Mutual also insures individuals, but in most case, he said, when hurricanes or other disasters threaten, “people take their family members, their dog or cat and their personal jewelry with them” when they flee.

Jewelers Mutual is available 24 hours day seven days a week (at 800-336-5642 and/or claims@jminsure.com) to file a claim, said Mills. If their security is breached following this (or other) hurricanes or natural disasters, Mills urged jewelers call their Jewelers Mutual agent “and we can assist them in removing jewelry stock to a safe place.”

In addition, Mills said, Jewelers Mutual has a hurricane disaster guide on its Web site, which not only tells how to be prepared but what to do afterward, including key contacts, how to preserve documents and substantiate claims.

* At Jewelers of America, the largest U.S. association of retail jewelers (11,000-plus), officials are “very concerned for our member jewelers” who were “hard hit” by Ike and other hurricane and natural disasters in recent weeks,” said Lauren Thompson, JA public affairs coordinator.

“The recent hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, have impacted jewelers along the Gulf Coast, specifically in Louisiana, Texas, and the southern Mississippi-Alabama border,” Thompson said. “JA members in these areas are working to recover and restore their homes and retail locations. Damage ranges from minimal electrical outages to severe destruction.

She added that the Texas Jewelers Association Conference was canceled due to the storm.

Earlier this summer, JA summer reinvigorated the JA Recovery Network (created immediately after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005) when flooding of the Mississippi River affected jewelers in Ohio, and is using it with Ike.

The Recovery Network is a peer-to-peer support service for jewelers seeking advice and help as they recover and rebuild following a catastrophic event. “Jewelers of America wants to connect jewelers in need with their peers who wish to offer support, advice or donate any supplies,” said Thompson.

Via the Recovery Network, JA is able to inform members of impacted areas and how they can help. Recovery Network messages are also included in JA’s weekly e-newsletter, “Thriving in 2008.” Current Recovery Network messages can be seen online at http://tips.jewelers.org/ja-recovery-network.html

* The Retail Jewelers Organization, the oldest U.S. jewelers buying group, has 12 members in Texas and nine in Louisiana. With power out in those regions, direct information from them hasn’t unavailable, but only one may have been directly affected by the storm, said Mary Peterson, RJO chief executive officer.

* The Independent Jewelers Organization, the largest U.S. jewelers buying group, said at least one member in Wedgwood Village, Texas, suffered damages and was still without power three days after the storm. No other IJO members had reported damages as of Sept. 16. An IJO member in Bellaire, Texas, close to Houston, had trees down at his home. Another in Gahanna, Ohio, was still without power as of Sept. 16, but undamaged, while some members in northern Kentucky lost power for a day, said Penny A. Palmer, IJO director of Member Services.

Caption: Crystal Beach, Texas, near Galveston after hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm, passed.