Mobile distributor tries to reach and assist customers displaced by Colorado flooding

Toby Shigley, a Matco Tools dealer in Windsor, Colo., considers himself lucky that his home was spared the damage caused by the flooding along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, Colo. Unfortunately, many of his customers have not been as fortunate. He was busy over this past weekend trying to reach customers, none of whom answered their work phones after the Thompson River corridor flooded, forcing homeowners and businesses to evacuate. Many were instructed to relocate to buildings designated as shelters.

National Guard and U.S. Army troops rescued 1,750 people cut off by washed-out roads in mountain canyons in parts of Colorado. Auto repair shops were among the hundreds of businesses that suffered damage from flooding.

“It was a shocker,” said Shigley, who lives midway between Greeley and Loveland, Colo. “This was completely unexpected.”

Shigley was visiting customers in Loveland on Thursday when he began noticing police vehicles speeding about with sirens blaring. Police ordered residents and businesses to evacuate due to the flooding. Shigley was unable to use the normal route to get back to Windsor. Using detours, his return trip took nearly three hours rather than the normal 20 minutes.

Shigley was able to get ahold of a few of his customers over the weekend. By Monday morning, the Big Thompson River, which is normally six to eight feet wide, was still hundreds of feet wide, but flooding had receded and he was attempting to contact more customers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent two 80-person, search-and-rescue teams to assist with continuing rescues in Larimer County and provided aid to other communities following massive flooding that began last Wednesday. Large military vehicles were attempting to get up the mountain roads.

Shigley offered to help customers clear their muddied shops. He also tried to drive to shops that he had been unable to contact by phone. “I’m not even sure I can get to the areas yet,” Shigley noted early this week.

Shigley is hoping that none of his customers are among the 1,200 people that were reported missing in Larimer County, one of the counties most affected by the flooding.

“This could put many businesses out of business,” Shigley said. “It’s definitely going to compromise my ability to generate revenue.”

“This is an historical flooding,” said Shigley, who has lived in the area for 25 years. He remembers the Big Thompson River flooding in the 1970s, but it was not as severe.

As recovery continues, mobile distributors like Shigley will find themselves busy as automotive shops begin to repair the hundreds of vehicles damaged by the historic flooding.