BASSETT -- After the water receded the only thing left of Robert Horton’s work area at Cunningham Tire was a shirt that had been hanging on a post. The back wall of the business and part of its roof had caved in during Sunday night's heavy rains and historic flooding.
And today the doors will reopen for customers at 2020 Fairystone Park Highway, continuing a business that has been around for 42 years.
Horton, who works on exhaust, just will be working on something different for a while, in another part of the building.
“The flooding in Bassett was just more than the creeks around here could handle and more than our roof could handle. The roof became overwhelmed,” said Manager Jamie Clark, who owned WHEO-AM (1270) in Stuart from 1997 to 2008 before he became an employee at Cunningham for the past five years.
The water rose from the creek along Woody Circle behind the building. It comes down the hillside, goes into a culvert and under Woody Circle, he said, then under Fairystone Park Highway to the Smith River. Water also appeared to have come down a hill beside the creek, and water still was running down that hill and across Woody Circle on Thursday afternoon.
Because of that water, “we lost 25% of our main physical structure,” Clark said.
The estimated damage is between $250,000 and $300,000, he said.
All of the 20 employees were on the scene Sunday night, at one point or another, he said.
The alarm system notified 911, and things started “rolling from there. You show up down here and see water 10 to 12 feet up the back of the building and the back of the building gone, and your gut sinks,” he said.
“One mechanic was close to tears and said, ‘This is my second home.’”
He said he told them all, “We will rebuild. We will have our jobs.”
That night in the rain they moved equipment to higher ground.
On Monday, they used various pumps, all powered by generators, to pump an estimated 200,000 gallons of water out of the building. They finished at about 10:30 p.m.
Power wasn’t restored until 4:30 p.m. Monday, and everyone was back at work on Tuesday – although doing different work than they normally do. They’re spending a lot of time salvaging and reconditioning inventory – mainly tires – that were submerged.
“Ninety-five percent of our tires were under water,” he said.
However, being wet doesn’t hurt tires one bit, he pointed out: After all, they are made to carry vehicles over wet roads in the rain.
In the exhaust work area, “all my tools, everything – welder, pipe-bender” were destroyed, Horton said. “I’ve been there a long time.”
Just last month, Horton had graded the whole back lot behind his work area, Clark said, putting in gravel and mulch, making it look real nice. That’s all been destroyed.
“It was pretty,” agreed Tate McMillan, a coworker.
“The only thing that’s left of my corner is me,” Horton said.
“And one of his shirts, hanging on a post,” Clark said.
Also damaged in the flood was a vehicle lift. Half of it was attached to the wall that collapsed, Clark said.
An environmental clean-up crew from North Carolina is clearing the area, and a structural engineer will inspect the building on Monday.
So today they all will be back in business, taking customers first only by appointment, to be sure to have the right supplies ready by the time the customer comes in.
Clark said it’s best that customers call to set up times for service, to be sure what they need is ready. If they don’t have it in stock, “it can be here within hours.”
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.
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