Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA) has taken steps to prepare its auctions for Hurricane Florence with lessons the company's leaders learned from last year's hurricanes, said John Kett, the company's chief executive and president. A large part of that hurricane preparation revolves around acquiring land to house an influx of hurricane-damaged vehicles.
“Along the eastern seaboard, we garnered a lot of land, nearly 1,100 acres from Georgia to New York,” said Kett. “A great thing is that we obtained more than half of that land prior to storm season. That’s one of our continuous improvements, having more land ready to go even before the season starts. Then, when there’s a particular storm, we augment and add land where we need it.”
The 1,100 acres added capacity for approximately 140,000 vehicles, and the company has the capability to add more storage space depending on how the storm moves, Kett said.
When the storm clears, IAA will send out tow units to recover vehicles that have been damaged by the storm. To accomplish this, the company can tap a network of roughly 1,300 towing units to deploy.
The company also has a first-response unit of volunteer employees that go into hurricane-affected areas after the storm clear. This year, that unit consists of roughly 400 people. These first responders do things such as direct tow traffic, direct where vehicles are put in yards, interface with the towing trucks that are coming in, and provide dispatch to towing trucks.
Hurricane Florence is currently on a projected path through North Carolina, South Carolina, and surrounding states. The hurricane was initially rated as a Category 4 hurricane, but as it got closer to making landfall it was downgraded to Category 2.
This categorization would put it on par with Hurricane Irma, which swept through parts of Florida last year. The lower categorization does not mean that the hurricane poses much less danger, as the hurricane is expected to be slow moving, meaning the affected areas will be bombarded with winds of 90 mph to 110 mph for hours. The slow storm will also bring with it over 40 inches of rain, which means flooding will be a bigger issue.
Kett noted that IAA has 16 branches — in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — in the projected path and perimeter of Hurricane Florence. Branches in the immediate path have been closed, and personnel have been told to follow evacuation orders.
Editor's note: A previous version of the story stated that IAA had acquired 11,000 acres of land. The correct figure was 1,100, and this has been corrected in the story.