How Florida C-Stores Are Doing After Hurricane Ian

Florida has the third-largest amount of convenience stores in the U.S. with 9,400 stores.

October 21, 2022

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Hurricane Ian was one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States, and it had a major impact on the state’s convenience and fuel retailing industry. However, disaster and recovery plans helped c-store retailers in Florida be among the first businesses to reopen.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on September 28. According to Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, the state of Florida activated emergency support functions for fuel on September 24, the association activated on September 25 and Bowman began working on different plans for fuel management. But before activation, he was communicating with members of the association starting on September 22.

“We knew that there was a possibility of a storm coming, and we wanted to get people aware and get information out there,” Bowman said on this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode.

“We were able to get our members on the phone and find out what do they need, checking on the fuel supply and just to make them aware this is a possibility,” he added.

The biggest issue the association, and really, the entire state of Florida, had was the track of the storm. Normally, hurricanes have steering currents, but meteorologists said this storm did not, so experts were unsure where it would make landfall. It was believed that the Tampa area was going to sustain a direct hit from Ian, and 40-60% of fuel comes into the state through the Port of Tampa.

“You’re trying to do all these contingency plans, so you need truckers. You need to know who can take the fuel, who needs generators,” Bowman said.

The storm eventually made landfall in the Fort Myers/Naples area as a category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, tying the record for the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States.

“Now you’re trying to shift assets and trying to figure out, okay, what changes? … You’re trying to find out what you have for generators and capacity down there for the reopening and for emergency responders,” he said. “Everything changes minute by minute on the planning on what you have to do.”

Bowman said that once the storm passed, the association was making sure of the health, safety and welfare of employees and members, and then you find out what the needs are.

“Recovery mode is, okay, so how do you recover from this? How much damage did you have? What assets did you have open? And you go basically start listening to the members,” he said.

Eight days after the storm hit, Bowman was able to travel down to the hard-hit area to find out exactly what was open and what was needed. He went to Fort Myers Beach, which was devasted by the storm, and there was a RaceTrac open about three miles from the beach, and they were very busy, said Bowman. There was a 7-Eleven nearby that had ankle deep water in the store.

“They were cleaning it up, and they were going to try to get open. They had a generator running, but in the middle of the parking lot they had a boat. That boat had to come two miles up the road,” he said.

Bowman was able to get 10 generators for RaceTrac, and they had fuel. Sunshine Distributing was able to get their stations up and running, so “we had pockets that were key,” he said.

“You had 50% of the stations that were out of fuel, but we had 50% of the stations that were open and selling fuel,” Bowman said. “The biggest word that we have during a storm on recovery is patience. If everybody has some patience, you can get through the gasoline issues and a lot of the other issues that you have.”

Listen this week’s NACS Convenience Matters podcast episode No. 358 “Florida Retailers and the Aftermath of Hurricane Ian,” to hear how Florida convenience stores helped their communities recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian—and still are.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at