Thursday, September 7, 2017

Stoddard Media & a Quarter Century of Hurricanes

Stoddard Media founder Peter Stoddard was first exposed to a hurricane while in the corporate events industry. He briefly worked a sales job for a boiler room operation selling hospitality at major US sporting events. Initially seduced by the opportunity & impressive offices high in Chicago's NBC Tower, only on day one did Stoddard discover the reality of the atmosphere.

NBC Tower Chicago ~ Never Struck by Hurricane

The first event Stoddard sold was the October 1992 Breeders' Cup horse race championships at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Florida, 20 miles north of Miami. The Breeders Cup came with two challenges from the corporate entertainment perspective.

First was the track, which lacked the sizzle of Churchill Downs, Santa Anita & more storied venues in more inviting locations.

The second challenge was Hurricane Andrew, which caused a bit of disruption in the area. Stoddard had focused his sales efforts around metro Miami, as he discovered early on that corporations elsewhere had minimal interest in taking clients to an event with which they were only vaguely familiar in some place called Hallandale that they had never heard of.

Andrew ~ Miami Area

Envious of other sales teams selling the Super Bowl & other lofty events of broader appeal, Stoddard's veteran boiler room salesmates were bitter & disillusioned. Andrew didn't help. But Stoddard hunkered down while he sought a legitimate non boiler room career opportunity. He sold 80% of the Breeders Cup simply because he stayed on the phone while others moped.

Figuring he would be promoted for his efforts, Stoddard was not surprised & even marginally excited to be offered a management position & event of his own. A week passed before 1993 event assignments, and he imagined himself in charge of the NCAA Final Four, US Open or The Masters. When announcement day came Stoddard was awarded the PGA Championship. In Toledo. Finding that to be non-negotiable, he tendered his immediate resignation.

Toledo 1993 ~ No Hurricane Necessary

Pardon the digression. This article is supposed to be about hurricanes. OK, back to those now.

As described here, the first hurricane that personally impacted Stoddard property was 1995 Opal. He still resided in the relative hurricane safe haven of Chicago, and the only asset he had at stake was a vacant lot on the Florida Redneck Riviera.

Opal ~ Redneck Riviera

In 1999 Stoddard moved to the tropical storm hotbed of Philadelphia. There he experienced the first and hopefully only significant personal property damage in a life to be filled with hurricane adventure. And it wasn't even his personal property. During Hurricane Floyd a Norwegian elm in the Stoddard front yard fell on a neighbor's Jeep, crushing it.

He immediately called the neighbor with an apology, assuring him Stoddard homeowner insurance would cover damages. On a 2nd call to his insurance company Stoddard learned he lied in call #1. Homeowner policies do not cover tree damage to a neighbor's car. The neighbor's auto policy covers that. Stoddard placed call #3 to his neighbor confessing his lie on call #1. The neighbor understood but relationships were strained for Stoddard's remaining years in Philadelphia over hard feelings resulting from a $500 auto policy deductible. Philadelphians are notorious for holding a petty grudge.

Floyd ~ Philadelphia

Figuring he was pressing his hurricane luck north of the Mason Dixon line, in 2001 Stoddard pressed that luck further by moving to Seagrove Beach on the Florida panhandle.

Immediately after arrival Stoddard was rewarded for his wisdom when Tropical Storm Barry landed at Seagrove Beach. Buckets of rain but an otherwise ho hum experience. After 4 successive hurricane free years Ivan paid a visit in September 2004. The Stoddard household boarded up the house & evacuated to Tallahassee. After Ivan passed they learned no neighbors were hurt, the home sustained no damage, electricity was not disrupted, but schools were closed. They thought they would be clever and go to Disney World for their unexpected school break. Unfortunately every Florida household had the same clever idea. The Stoddards spent 4 sweltering hot days standing in a single Orlando amusement park line.

Ivan ~ Seagrove Beach

Photo courtesy of Kurt Lischka, Moon Creek Studios. Stoddard coached & mentored Kurt's son in T-Ball & middle school scuba certification. It is hoped the Lischka boy is no longer traumatized by Stoddard's years of instructional ineptitude.

Late 2004 Ivan was followed by early 2005 Dennis. The Stoddards again boarded up the house & evacuated to Tallahassee, the only difference being this time they knew everyone there by name. Again the storm did no damage to Stoddard property. But the Ivan-Dennis one-two punch left the beaches a mess and struck dire fear into the hearts of Redneck Rivierites.

Dennis ~ Redneck Riviera

One Florida neighbor was so shaken he sold his home thru Stoddard, then a real estate broker, and moved to Charlotte. Only after the sale closed & his commission check cleared did Stoddard advise the neighbor that his new local NHL team was named the Carolina Hurricanes for good reason. Two years later the neighbor moved back to Florida with the help of a different real estate agent.

On the heels of Dennis came Katrina, originally predicted to make landfall, well, closer the Stoddards than Dennis. They made tentative plans to evacuate to friends' home in New Orleans. Predictions & plans changed, and the friends evacuated to the Stoddards' home. The night Katrina passed the families enjoyed a celebratory dinner after reports that New Orleans escaped severe damage. That celebration was premature, as the next morning levees notoriously broke & all hell broke loose. The Louisianans remained in Seagrove for another 9 months until restoration of order back home.

Katrina Projected Path ~ This is Not Where She Went

On the heels of Katrina came nasty but not quite as nasty Wilma. Wilma had zero impact on the Redneck Riviera but left in her wake an image created by some warped image creator.

Wilma ~ Somewhere Above Bedrock.

Following all the 2004-2005 excitement in 2006 the Tropical Meteorology Project predicted conditions ripe for annual Katrina strength storms for the next 20 years. Of course the world believed them because TMP headquarters is where everyone expects to find elite hurricane experts, Colorado. For years Florida real estate was available for 3¢ on the dollar.

TMP predictions were less than accurate. Stoddard calls to the TMP have not been returned.

One constant in Stoddard hurricane experience is compassionate outreach, both before & after storms. Friends & family in Alabama & Georgia would invite them north to stay out of harm's way. Stoddard declined with appreciation & the logic that it's better to risk 120 MHP hurricane winds than 400 MPH tornado winds that often follow to the north. Too often Stoddard was right.

Tornado ~ Not a Hurricane

The Stoddards are fortunate to have never needed post storm emergency assistance. But they have participated in such to areas harder hit to the east & west. Prayers are asked & answered. And they continue today.

In the wake of Harvey & in advance of Irma Stoddard is in daily contact with affected friends & family as well as first responders in Texas & Florida. Within a week Stoddard Media Atlanta offices may be in Irma's ominous path.

An 80 year old next door neighbor on Stoddard's Lake Lanier marina is a veteran of sailing the world for 30+ years in the face of many a hurricane. She has tales of adventure that put this narrative to shame. Today she is readying for her next storm, battening down hatches.

Time for Stoddard to do the same. Continued prayers go out to all.


Stoddard Media
1400 Market Place Blvd
Cumming GA 30041