in 2012. The distillery is located in the United States Navy Yard, which the city has been developing as an incubator for businesses, but which also sits at a low elevation. The storm surge was 13 feet, which came up three feet in the distillery itself. “In the scheme of things, we lost a lot of grain, we had to pump out the basement and make sure all the electrical was fine,” he said. They spent a week with no electricity, in weather that ranged from 40 degrees at night to 55 in the day, essentially cleaning out the distillery in the cold and dark. “Fortunately it's an old brick building, it doesn't have any drywall in it at all.” Spoelman said. As a result, they lost tens of thousands of dollars, instead of more than a hundred thousand dollars. They were able to stagger the impact of the costs, and being a small business played to their advantage since they had no heavy equipment to replace, such as forklifts. One problem Spoelman had not foreseen was the scarcity of gasoline. “The whole Northeast was out of gasoline, so we couldn't get out and make deliveries. So that interrupted cash flow in a way that we hadn't anticipated.” Luckily, their barrel stock was upstairs and wasn’t affected, though one barrel did remain downstairs. Nicole Austin, head distiller at the time, came to him later with an odd comment about the whiskey in that barrel. “She said, ‘This barrel tastes like chicken.’ It clicked in my mind that that was one of the barrels that had been in production the day before,” Spoelman said. “For one reason or another, seawater must have gotten into it. I do know that it's actually still lying around. It's four years old now.” Spirit Hound Distilling of Lyons, Colorado, was hit hard in 2013 when the St. Vrain valley flooded, inundating the distillery and the small community. The flood hit the older, more affordable neighborhoods along the river hardest, wiping out homes belonging to locals and artists, resulting in the displacement of longtime residents, according to Spirit Hound co-owner Craig Engelhorn.“They’re gone now. We lost a lot of really cool people,” he said. “It changed the complexion of the town. The neighborhoods have changed.” Just like in Cedar Rapids, the flood came through and hit every musty, dirty corner of the canyon, as well as a waste treatment
facility, on its way to Lyons. Spirit Hound flooded knee-high, and Engelhorn spent two months cleaning up, ripping out walls, and having pumps rebuilt. They still have a line on the bay door about 16 or 18 inches up from the floor that marks the high-water line. “We were literally able to scoop the mud out of the glycol chiller. Our sanitary pumps were under water,” he said. “For days it just seeps out of the walls,” Engelhorn said. “You rinse off the tank legs and more falls off. It was just Hershey’s-chocolate brown and smelly. There was mold immediately growing up the walls, climbing up the paint.” With a hired crew of 35 people attacking the problem, putting up drywall and disposing of waste, they were able to reopen after two months, but it took longer than six months to truly get back on their feet. However, even now they still haven’t entirely gotten the building back to pre-flood condition. Engelhorn pointed to a concrete slab where he thinks the floodwaters compacted the earth under the building. “You can feel the floor moving,” he said.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT No distillery is an island, and craft producers in particular often take pride in being an active part of their community. So when disaster strikes, many craft producers put their own house in order, then look outward to see what can be done. In St. Petersburg, Kozuba saw a need for water even before the storm hit. “The whole area ran out of water pretty quickly. A week before the hurricane it was hard to find water,” he said. So Kozuba filled a tank with 600 gallons of water from their reverse osmosis system, advertising on social media that anyone in need could come fill up jugs and tanks. They also donated 30 percent of bottle sales to the Red Cross for 30 days after the storm. Down in the Keys, Menta was busy feeding about 50 first responders and finding them housing, looking around the community and seeing who needed help and getting people stabilized and housed. He says priorities continually evolved as the situation progressed. One day the priority was reopening the hotel to provide housing, another day it was securing safe landing zones for helicopters. “Every day it changed. We continued to pay our staff, because it takes the pressure off.” Eventually the community reopened the pier and held a benefit party at sunset. More than a
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Published on Dec 14, 2017