The chaos and heartache brought about by Hurricane Sandy forced New Jerseyans to appreciate the utilities and shelter we often take for granted, and incidentally, renewed our appreciation for gasoline and the containers which store it.
You may not realize it, but if you used a gas can during Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, it was likely manufactured by Blitz, a company in a small Oklahoma town. And sadly, it’s now a relic of the pre-lawsuit abuse era.
Blitz sold more than 14 million cans per year for the last decade, which translates to 75 percent of all gas cans sold in the United States. Fewer than two incidents per million cans sold were reported, and most involved obvious misuse. Pouring gasoline from the container onto an open fire was a common theme.
Of the 62 cases filed since 1994, only two made it to court and only of those cases was successful. The rest were settled or dismissed, notes a New York TImes report. Nevertheless, it still cost the Oklahoma-based company $30 million in legal fees, and presumably, higher insurance premiums to cover the additional $30 million paid by their insurance companies. Sadly, these costs of doing business in America forced the leading manufacturer of gas cans in the United States to close its 117-person operation for good. Buying domestic also just got a bit harder.
For New Jerseyans who retained their homes but lost their power, gasoline offered somewhat of a lifeline for those with generators to fill. And as shelters and motels filled to capacity, generators were able to keep more people in their homes even as temperatures dropped. A not-so-small silver lining during a catostrophic storm.
Of course we hope we never see a storm of Sandy’s magnitude ever again. But if we do, the absence of Blitz in our markets may make generator-powered electricity a difficult commodity to deliver.