Waiting, watching: Business owners worry about Harvey damage

With the animals sent to safety before Harvey hit, the owners of CityVet in Houston kept watch on their empty practice by security camera, hoping not to see floodwaters rush in.

But they lost the video stream Monday morning, apparently when power to the building near Houston’s Galleria failed. So it was impossible to assess if any damage was occurring, said Paul Kline, a veterinarian based in and watching from Dallas. To his relief, the video came back Tuesday and “we could see cars going by on the street outside — a good sign,” Kline said. By Wednesday, with the rains gone, he could see the practice had indeed escaped the flooding in the area.

Plenty of small business owners spent a long five days, waiting to see if the rainfall that totaled more than 50 inches in some places would flood their businesses. Harvey’s winds and rains damaged or destroyed many small businesses in the storm’s path along the Gulf Coast.

It was a tornado spawned by Harvey that destroyed the office of Kenneth Bryant’s used-car dealership in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston. The winds Saturday morning picked up the office and slammed it into the building next door.

“I lost everything in there: titles to vehicles, keys, paperwork, computers,” said Bryant, whose business was not insured. Two of the 10 cars in his inventory were destroyed.

There was more bad news on Wednesday: The remaining cars had been flooded. Bryant won’t know how severely they were damaged until he was able to unlock them.

“Where do we go from here? I don’t know. It’s going to be such a long road ahead,” Bryant said.

For many companies, damage to their premises was just the start. Some lost inventory that would cost them future sales. Workers were stranded or dealing with the devastation of their homes. Companies that couldn’t operate were losing revenue and profits every day.

Fiyyaz Pirani estimates that his Houston-based company, Medology, lost $100,000 in new business. It’s been operating with six staffers instead of its usual 60 since the storm began, and accommodating only existing customers.

“We had a couple of employees who sustained a lot of damage to their homes, and some people are in shelters,” he said.

The company, which helps patients get low-cost lab tests and other services, moved back to its regular location Tuesday from temporary quarters, with generator power but no air conditioning. Staffers were working around some puddles of water at their top-floor office.

Eleanor Rem had…

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