P.E.I. auto body shops still tackling massive backlog of Fiona claims
Auto body shops on Prince Edward Island are still dealing with damage from post-tropical storm Fiona, and some say it could take another year to get through the massive backlog of repairs.
Dave Gaudet, the owner of Fix Auto in Charlottetown, said his shop is currently booked through to August — a full six months after the storm. And other shops in the city are in the same boat, he said.
"Everybody just got slammed with claims so we just can't get through it all," he said. "Don't have the manpower or the capacity to do it."
The storm hit P.E.I. in the early morning hours of Sept. 24, knocking out power to the entire Island, downing countless trees, and leaving widespread destruction to roads, homes and vehicles.
Fix Auto usually sees about 20 claims per week, but Gaudet said the shop got hit with around 400 in the week after Fiona.
"Unfortunately, patience is a virtue in this scenario," Gaudet said.
"We've never experienced any kind of volume like this. I've been in the industry for 20 years and normally we're only booked out three to four weeks at a time, not four or five months."
'Not going to end any time soon'
The most common damage is from trees toppling onto vehicles, as well as cars scratched and dented from flying debris.
"All these repairs are time-consuming — 70-, 80-hour jobs — so they're repairs that get stuck in the shop for two to three weeks at a time."
This is not going to end any time soon, I'm afraid. — Dave Gaudet
He said the shop is trying to squeeze in smaller jobs where possible, but they're turning away major repairs because they simply can't take anything else on.
Gaudet has hired more people and extended the shop's hours — they're now open 12 hours a day six days a week — but with claims from crashes and accidents still coming in every day, it's hard to catch up.
"This is not going to end any time soon, I'm afraid," he said. "I'm thinking we're going to be the entire year trying to catch up … I fully expect we'll be repairing Fiona damage probably this time next year."
Back in business
Dave Godkin describes himself as one of the unfortunate victims of Fiona. A pine tree came down on his truck during the storm, and it's only recently been fixed.
"Like everybody else in P.E.I., we took a lot of damage during Fiona, and one of the casualties was my truck," he said.
"The truck was not in good shape. The roof was banged up pretty good, back end was banged up pretty good, and it was really undriveable for the last six months, so [a] bit of a challenge."
Godkin's household has another vehicle he can drive, so he considers himself lucky.
"You can get frustrated, you can jump up and down, and you can do all sorts of things, but at the end of the day there's people in a lot worse shape than I was as a result of the storm," he said. "The truck got banged up, it's fixed now, we're back in business."
'I'll be putting mine in the garage next time'
As for Gaudet, he worries about suggestions the frequency and intensity of storms on the Island may increase in the coming years.
"We think about it all the time. It's a pretty common topic that comes up between me and our customers," he said.
"Obviously we hope to never see anything like that again, but [if] it can happen once, it can happen again, is the way I look at it."
Gaudet's own truck was damaged in the storm — and he hasn't had the time to fix it. He said next time, he'll think twice about where he parks.
"I know I'll be putting mine in the garage next time."
That's a sentiment echoed by Godkin.
"I'm not going to park it in the driveway," he said. "I'm going to park it in a big parking lot without anything that's gonna fall on it."