Nine days after Hurricane Ike made landfall in Texas, much of the region remains without power, and the stone industry has literally ground to a halt. The vast majority of stone fabricators and distributors in the area have remained closed as of the start of this week.
Suppliers reported to be open in the Houston area include IGM and Stone Marketing International, with Walker Zanger, Thorntree and others expected to open over the next few days.
In the fabrication sector, most shops remain closed. "Since the power in the Houston area is slowly being restored, many of the fabricators are not open -- including the large commercial ones," explained Irma Lovelace of Stone Marketing International. "A few of the large fabricators are working in spite of not having normal power by using generators."
While some of the stone industry facilities in Houston have sustained damage, there have been no reports of buildings being completely destroyed in the city. "Besides a little water in our building, we cannot complain," said Rey Rodriguez of United Counters in Houston, TX. "Really, what's hurting everyone is lack of electricity. If you're lucky, like us, and have power at your shop, it's hard to get gas to install. Or there is no power where you are going. There is fuel, but the pumps cannot operate without power. The gas stations that are up and running have long waits at the pump. However, every day they are providing more power to businesses and residences, so it is getting better. We were also very lucky to not have major power damage in our subdivision. We only had to run a generator at my house for two days and one night. There are people living on generators -- or without them -- since [the hurricane hit] and still might have to live that way for three weeks. Galveston might take months."
In addition to the scarcity of fuel, the lack of electricity is also greatly impacting automobile travel in the area. "Many of the intersections have non-working traffic lights due to the hurricane, so traffic has become a big issue as more and more people return to work," Lovelace said. "The 'four-way-stop' system is quite slow. Getting anywhere without working traffic signals is a challenge."
Looking toward the future, Houston area suppliers anticipate a slow but gradual return to business. "We are grateful to have work going on outside of Houston, and everyone we have talked to expects to be really busy when power is restored and the infrastructure here is back on track," Lovelace said, also expressing gratitude for the assistance the area has received from other regions of North America. "Trucks and work crews of all types are from everywhere -- electrical trucks from Hattiesburg, MS, tree-cutting trucks from Minnesota, clean-up trucks from Canada and many more. These are a few of the out-of-towners we have seen near our part of Houston, but I am certain Galveston and Orange and other hard hit cities are seeing the same diversity in help arriving from other areas. It is heartwarming and comforting, and I think it helps morale.
"Overall, I think most people in our area have a positive and grateful attitude since we feel very fortunate to have terrific support from the local, state and federal government," Lovelace continued. "We definitely appreciate the little things as we see so many homes wiped out in Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula, etc. Because we do not have power, we have not gotten to see all that has gone on, but we know it is devastating."