As the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007, Hurricane Matthew wrought widespread destruction and catastrophic loss of life during its journey across the western Atlantic in October 2016.
The storm caused damages estimated in excess of $10.5 billion, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. More than 1,600 deaths were attributed to the hurricane, including more than 1,000 in Haiti, and 49 in the southeastern U.S.
Even before Matthew made landfall in Florida on Oct. 6, the Cat Rental Power Network started working to meet the urgent needs of thousands of customers across the Southeastern U.S.
“We started shipping equipment out on Monday, Oct. 3—that’s when the phones started to ring almost non-stop,” says Scott Lundy, the rental power manager at Gregory Poole Power Systems in North Carolina.
By the following Sunday, Cat dealers across the U.S. had deployed over 400MW of Cat diesel generator sets— ranging in size from 20kW to 2MW—between Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Cat dealers from as far as west of the Mississippi River supported the effort, as did dealers from the Northeast.
Utilizing hundreds of pieces of equipment from dealers’ rental fleets, Cat Rental power managers across the country functioned as a single network, working together to deploy power and satisfy customers’ emergency needs.
“Whatever the need and however long the duration, we were prepared to meet it,” says Robb Homolka, a regional sales manager for Caterpillar Global Power Solutions.
In addition to emergency power, the Cat Rental Power network supplied technicians and ancillary equipment for a complete solution.
“The dealers had their technicians volunteer to deploy to the Southeast, it was almost like a National Guard scenario,” Homolka says. “The teamwork and coordination exhibited during this critical time demonstrates how we pull together as one team, showcasing the strength of our Cat dealer network.”
The Cat Rental Power network is a close-knit group of independent dealers who work together across territorial boundaries to meet customers’ emergency power needs, wherever they may be, says Chet Hasting, a rental power manager for Blanchard Power Systems in West Columbia, S.C.
“We all know each other, it’s a small world,” Hasting says. “We tend to share resources, people, equipment and best practices.”
As a rental power rep for Yancey Power Systems in Savannah, Ga., Kevin Chmela’s customers range from local farmers trying to preserve produce to a large aerospace manufacturer.
“The Cat Rental Power Network is an unbelievable family,” Chmela says. “During the hurricane, we all got together and everyone provided information as far as what they had available, and how quick they could get it to us. They were all willing to help with whatever we needed—from H.O. Penn in Long Island to Ring Power in Florida.”
In an emergency such as Hurricane Matthew, rental power managers routinely work long hours to ensure that generators are deployed when and where they are needed.
“For about two weeks we were very busy, working somewhere between 14 and 16 hours a day,” Hasting says. “You don’t have enough arms to answer ringing phones. Most of the time, people are desperate when they call us for help, so it’s important to stay professional and assess their power needs to ensure we provide the right solutions —that’s what we’re here for.”
The need for power during an emergency is universal. From municipalities to food processors, and everything in between, customers called and the Cat Rental Power network delivered.