It could have been worse — much, much worse.
That was the mantra of business owners throughout Maryland who dealt with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy this week. The storm caused much more severe flooding and damage in New Jersey and New York City than in Maryland. Early estimates pegged the storm’s damage as high as $50 billion, which would make it one of the costliest storms in U.S. history.
“We felt fortunate,” said Sidney Kramer, president of Kramer Enterprises, a Silver Spring business that manages shopping centers and freestanding commercial stores in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Northern Virginia. “We had anticipated more disruption. ... There was less disruption this time than during the last storm [in June]. We had more power outages then.”
The only power outage at properties his company manages during Sandy occurred at Ashton Village Center, and that was for only eight hours or so, Kramer said. Damage at the centers and buildings was relatively minor — a leaky roof, fence knocked over, tree toppled.
“We were more prepared this time,” Kramer said.
Even though the storm made landfall farther north in New Jersey, Ocean City still suffered great impact, with many businesses flooded as water levels on Assawoman Bay reached levels not seen in a storm since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Yet many businesses had reopened by Wednesday, including the 6-acre Seacrets entertainment complex that has 18 drinking establishments, a radio station and a hotel.
Seacrets reopened for its annual Halloween party. The complex had revenues of $15 million to $25 million last year, according to industry research firm Technomic. That was the most of any Maryland nightclub and 15th-highest in the nation. In comparison, Washington, D.C.’s most popular nightclub, P.O.V. Rooftop Lounge near the White House, ranked 44th nationally with revenues last year of $10 million to $15 million.
“We were really prepared,” said Justin Grimes, Seacrets assistant general manager. Preparations by employees of the megabar on 49th Street included placing sandbags at the base of doors and walls. “A couple of palm trees toppled over, and we lost a decent amount of sand ... But we were one of the lucky ones.”
Some businesses will require a little more time to return to normal operations, “but all in all, we are grateful to be able to report the town’s efforts to clean up have begun in earnest,” said Donna Abbott, a spokeswoman for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau and Department of Tourism.
Most of the year-round hotels had reopened by Wednesday, she said.
“The boardwalk itself looked pretty good [Wednesday],” Abbott said.
Staying off the roads
Like many employers, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce had employees stay off the roads Monday and Tuesday and work from home.
“That was safer and more productive for us,” said Georgette Godwin, president and CEO of the chamber, whose headquarters are in Rockville.
Unlike in late June, when the devastating derecho knocked out electricity to hundreds of thousands, the chamber and many of its members did not lose power this time, she said. Pepco did a “great job” not just in responding to outages and keeping outages to a minimum, but in communicating to the public, Godwin said.
“That’s important because people can then plan ahead,” she said.
Numerous malls, including Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda and Bowie Town Center, closed Monday and reopened Tuesday.
Bethesda military and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin postponed a panel discussion on cybersecurity that was scheduled for Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., due to Sandy. Lockheed, the largest company with headquarters in Maryland, activated its emergency response plan Oct. 26 — three days before the storm hit — which included organizing an emergency response team and communicating to employees tips on preparing for the storm, said Jennifer Allen, a company spokeswoman.
Most facilities affected by the storm closed by 2 p.m. Monday, she said. Several East Coast facilities remained closed Tuesday, though none sustained major damage, according to a company statement.
Bank branches closed all day or shut down early Monday afternoon. Capital One Bank of McLean, Va., which has the fourth-most deposits in Maryland with $10.4 billion, closed its 126 branches in the state Monday.
“Decisions regarding closings and reopening of branches and other business operations are based mainly on safety considerations,” said Amanda Landers, a Capital One spokeswoman.
Employees, such as those in non-customer service positions including accounting, were allowed to work from home with manager approval, she said.
Branches of John Marshall Bank, including one in Rockville, were open Monday morning but closed at 1 p.m., said R. Bruce Gemmill, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
“All of the branches were fully staffed. However, we did tell those with small children not to come in, since schools are closed,” Gemmill said.
John Marshall branches reopened at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Stock market delay
Some public companies had to delay quarterly earnings releases and shareholder calls, as the storm forced the first weather-related, two-day closure of stock markets since the Blizzard of 1888.
Bethesda asset manager American Capital rescheduled a quarterly earnings shareholder call to Thursday from Monday due to the superstorm. Hanover cybersecurity company KEYW Holding also canceled its Monday earnings conference call.
The New York Marriott Downtown in lower Manhattan, operated by Marriott International of Bethesda, closed down with a mandatory evacuation there. The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, managed by Marriott subsidiary Ritz-Carlton Hotel of Chevy Chase, also closed. Guests were relocated to other hotels.
The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, a club in the Bahamas managed by Ritz-Carlton, sustained “minimal damage to the resort structures and moderate damage to the landscaping,” officials said in a news release. That resort was closed.
Hotels owned by Bethesda real estate investment trust DiamondRock Hospitality, including four in New York City, did not sustain significant damage, officials said.
Bethesda real estate investment trust First Potomac Realty Trust experienced only minimal damage at properties throughout its portfolio from Hurricane Sandy. Those properties include Redland Corporate Center in Rockville and Annapolis Business Center.