On Tuesday morning, Tropical Storm Laura strengthened into a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico as it moved toward the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. The hurricane is expected to intensify and could make landfall late late Wednesday or early Thursday bringing damaging winds, storm surge and heavy rain along the coast with an inland flooding risk as far north as Arkansas and southern Missouri.

Promo companies in the area are preparing now. Peter Hirsch, president of supplier Hirsch Gift in Houston, is taking no chances. “We are preparing our warehouses to make sure that product is off the floor in case of minor flooding, but as you know, hurricanes aren’t predictable when it comes to wind and storm damage on a localized basis. We will sit tight and communicate with our staff remotely to see what Thursday morning brings with the anticipated landfall sometime early Thursday morning, hopefully to the east of us.”

The region is all too familiar with how damaging flooding can be. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought devastating flooding to the Houston area, causing $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Looks like this one will be more wind than rain for us (although there will still be lots of rain),” says Gary Mosely, president of Houston-based supplier Kati Sportcap. “We will open tomorrow and then see how it all plays out. I would imagine we will shut the office down sometime Wednesday afternoon. As I hope is the same for all, the main issue is the safety of our employees. Then we will just wait and see what happens. Hopefully, it passes without much damage and we can open back up on Friday. You just never know with these things.”

Allen Jarvis, CFO of distributor Knight Media Printing in Lake Charles, Louisiana, adds, “We decided we would close our business the day before and after the hurricane. Today we are boarding up and unplugging computers. A mandatory evacuation was given around 11:30 am today. We went over a checklist of where our employees will be evacuating to and got current contact numbers for them. I am grabbing essentials such as our insurance policy to review with my flashlight when the power goes out. We have been through this before with Hurricane Rita, but there was no COVID-19. Shelters will be hard to find and many will not leave without their pets. I have sent my wife away because it will likely be a week or two before we get power back. I am staying to protect my personal property. If the roads are passible, I will check the business for damages.

“2020 has been an awful year with COVID-19 and this just compounds how awful this year has been. It is always darkest before the dawn so hopefully it will get better before year end. I do not think it could be any worse and can only get better from here. I also think we will all be saying prayers for everyone and hope that no one gets hurt.”

Follow the news on Hurricane Laura at pubs.ppai.org. Companies that are affected by the hurricane are encouraged to report their status to JamesK@ppai.org for follow-up reports in PPB Newslink.