ORMOND BEACH — As businesses and residents rebound from the effects of Hurricane Irma, it has been all hands on deck at one independently owned company that specializes in water damage repair.
Based in Ormond Beach, United Water Restoration Group was involved in storm recovery projects for 60 customers this week, a 50 percent increase over the company’s typical workload of 40 per week.
“And the calls are still coming in,” said Neftali Melendez, United’s regional supervisor in Volusia County. “We have about 20 people on the waiting list.”
More than 30 employees work in United’s office, off Airport Road near Ormond Beach Municipal Airport. The company has been in the Daytona Beach area since 2007, but only recently moved into the new Ormond Beach headquarters, where a grand opening celebration is set for Oct. 26.
For now, the company’s technicians, customer service and management staffers are working hard to keep up with customer demand in Irma’s wake.
The pace is more grueling than after Hurricane Matthew, which hit the area hard on Oct. 7, 2016, Melendez said. After Matthew, the Ormond Beach staff was augmented by personnel and resources from other United offices in Florida, where the company is in 14 markets from Miami to Jacksonville.
“The damage from Irma is all over the state,” Melendez said. “All of the offices are affected.”
All of the Florida offices are independently owned, except in Gainesville and Ocala. Those two locations are franchises of United Water Restoration Group, a company that also operates in Omaha, Nebraska, Houston, Texas, and Ontario, Canada. The Ormond Beach office is owned by Volusia County businessmen Lajos Nagy and Endre Banfi.
Countertops have been removed and a stove stands alone in the middle of a deserted kitchen, where drywall has been removed below waist-level. Nearby, tables, chairs and bed frames are covered in heavy plastic.
“It is unsanitary water, so anything that water touched has to be removed,” Melendez said. “We’ve made a four-foot cut (in the drywall), the kitchen cabinets were affected and had to be removed, the nails in the studs. It’s all to avoid mold growth.”
The homeowners, Al and Vivian Zipperer, waited on the patio as the crew finished a week of work, the first step in a long recovery process. In all, the couple expects to be out of their home for six months, Vivian said.
“Our homeowner’s insurance company sent them to us and we’ve been very satisfied,” said Vivian, adding that the couple has lived there for six years. “We want to save the house, that’s for sure.”
In addition to working on Irma’s recovery, United also is collecting supplies this week to be shipped to those suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico, said Hailey Konfrst, a company customer service supervisor. Those interested in donating toiletries, paper goods, canned food or other essentials can drop them off through Friday, Sept. 29, at the company’s office, 1 Sunshine Blvd., Ormond Beach.