A Self-Storage Operator’s View: Picking Up the Pieces in Joplin, Mo.
By Matthew Van Horn
On May 22, the city of Joplin, Mo., was devastated by a Tornado so large and powerful it destroyed more than half of the city. I originally blogged on this topic on May 26, so I thought it was time to revisit and offer updated pictures, statistics and other information.
I manage three self-storage facilities in the area, with two of them located just outside of the tornado’s path. Thankfully, the damage to our managed facilities was minor and mostly cosmetic.
The Joplin tornado was one of the most powerful tornados to ever hit the United States. To give you an idea of the destructive power of this tornado, let’s look at the statistics. Tornados are measured on the Fujita Scale, which is based on the wind speed of the tornado. The scale ranges from F-0 to F-6, with F-6 being the most devastating type of tornado.
Originally, the Joplin tornado was categorized as an F-4 tornado, which has wind speeds ranging from 207 to 260 mph. The Joplin tornado has since been reclassified as an F-5, with speeds ranging from 261 to 318 mph. F-5 tornados are nicknamed the “Finger of God,” due to their destructive power.
Some of the other information is just as devastating. There are 151 people confirmed dead along with more than $3 billion in property damage. Three of my self-storage competitors in the area are completely destroyed, utility service was sporadic at best, roads were dangerous, and looting was rampant.
To give you a better understanding of the size of this storm, watch this video of the tornado entering the Joplin.
Fast forward two months and the cleanup and rebuilding efforts are on track. Last week, the city of Joplin announced it would start issuing building permits for 60 percent to 70 percent of the affected areas. The cleanup is still moving forward, and there has been a non-stop effort to clean out the affected area of leftover debris.
Temporary housing structures have been completed and opened to people in need. A $122 million housing program has been initiated by the state of Missouri to help people on the reconstruction and repairs of residential homes.
I would like to reiterate that this situation can happen anywhere. I don’t know of a self-storage door or building on the market that can withstand this type of storm. Make sure you have a disaster plan at each of your self-storage facilities. Review your insurance policy and be sure the coverages are adequate. Lastly, consider requiring tenant insurance for all of your customers, existing and new. No one believes they need insurance until they’re staring at a pile of metal where their storage unit previously existed.
Honestly look at the pictures and imagine if that was your self-storage facility. What would you do? Who would you call? How would you handle your customers? Who would handle the clean up? Where are the facility managers? Also take into consideration you have no utilities, no working cell phone, looting is rampant, and the roads are extremely dangerous. I lost three of my self-storage competitors in this storm. Imagine if one of those self-storage facilities was yours.
If you would like to donate to the Joplin relief effort, here are two websites:
Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. For more information, visit www.cuttingedgeselfstorage.com or follow the company on Twitter at Cuttingedgemgt.