Hurricane Ian continued its path of havoc across the Florida peninsula early Thursday. The hurricane touched down on land Wednesday, and forecasters warned that it had the potential to be one of the worst storms to ever hit the state.

Promo industry companies in Florida spent several days bracing for the storm’s impact. A handful of suppliers gave early notice of likely order delays, including Hit Promotional Products and Koozie Group, both headquartered in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, which had appeared poised to take a direct hit.

Ultimately Ian veered south, with the Fort Myers area bearing the most significant brunt of wind and storm surge damage on Wednesday.

The extent of how the companies’ businesses will be affected is yet to be determined, although the fallout will undoubtedly be significant. This information will take a backseat to the more pressing concern of safety and shelter for individuals and families affected.

Distributor Sallee Promotions is based in Fort Myers. Owner Nate Sallee told PPAI Media that “our region is completely devastated.” Sallee said that, as of Thursday morning, he has yet to hear from two employees who live in areas that were hit very hard by the storm.

The Storm

According to the New York Times, over 2 million customers were without power as of Thursday morning, and that number was expected to go up before it goes down. In some areas, emergency responders were forced to wait out the worst of the storm before responding to a backlog of 911 calls.

Ian has been classified as a Category 4 hurricane. Some cities received about a foot of water in a matter of hours. Gov. Ron DeSantis has called the storm’s impacts “historic,” and the state and federal government is prioritizing the identification of those who need immediate help or are still in harm’s way.

Cities like Fort Myers and Naples were hit especially hard. The damage to these cities will be difficult to describe at this point except to say that it is catastrophic. The National Guard and the Coast Guard were needed for “pulling people off of roofs in Fort Myers” Thursday morning.

The storm is expected to continue on to Georgia and South Carolina, changing to a tropical storm close to hurricane strength.

The Industry Affected

At this early stage, PPAI Media cannot account for all the people affected by Hurricane Ian in our promo family. Dozens of companies of all sizes populate the storm’s path.

Sallee, his wife and children got out of Fort Myers with some neighbors and are currently in West Palm Beach. While he and his employees focus on safety and prioritizing the next couple steps in the aftermath of the hurricane, how this damage will affect Sallee Promotions is impossible to say.

“I love promo,” Salle says. “It’s my life and our family’s livelihood, but [I’m] honestly not even sure I have a business left.”

Supplier GEMPIRE is an example of many promo companies based in Tampa, Florida, which seemed to avoid damage as catastrophic as Fort Myers on Wednesday, but is still likely to deal with significant affects of the storm, including nearly half a million power outages. “Tonight will be the challenge,” GEMPIRE owner Harvey Mackler told PPAI Media on Wednesday evening.

PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham is also based in Tampa. Along with his immediate family, he left town Wednesday, departing early for a planned trip to visit a son at college in South Carolina. Other family members, who evacuated different areas of Florida, are staying at Denham’s home in Tampa.

As is the case outside of the industry, the scope to which this storm has and will affect the promo world – both in regards to the well-being of individuals and the impact on business – is impossible to say and may not be sorted out for days or weeks.

Industry companies affected by Hurricane Ian can share any service changes or outages with PPAI and the promotional products industry.

Suppliers, reps and business services providers can login to and update their status at any time. For a full listing of companies that have shared the effects of the storm, click here.