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Helping the helpers, even in post-storm adversity

By Brock Huffstutler

March 24, 2024

An aerial view of the tornado damage at A & H Hose & Fitting

Devastation visited the small northwestern Ohio community of Huntsville/Indian Lake on the evening of Thursday, March 14. A tornado — described by the National Weather Service as peaking at EF-3 classification — swept through the region, causing widespread damage and the loss of three lives.

A & H Hose & Fitting, a supplier of a variety of hoses and related accessories to the equipment rental industry since 1987, was right in the path of the storm.

“It was completely unexpected,” says Mandy Hart, co-owner of A & H Hose & Fitting, of the tornado’s arrival. “I was at the high school for my nephew’s program. The program ended at 7:30 and the sirens started going off. We went to the locker room. My husband [Tim Hart, co-owner of A & H Hose & Fitting] is a township trustee, so he had all the details of things that were going on and he said that they had set up triage at the local fire department. The response was quick.”

Tim & Mandy Hart

Tim & Mandy Hart

While the Harts’ home and those of their employees were spared, the company’s facility was hit hard.

Three of its buildings are completely gone and its main structure where the hose production takes place lost its second story entirely.

“As devastating as our business getting hit was, we are still able to operate in a limited capacity,” Tim says. “But it’s really been a humbling event. The team just showed up today [one week after the storm] to shore it up temporarily to where we can ensure that the portion of our building that’s left is a safe environment for us to continue to work in until we can get a new structure put up. We’ve got eight shipping containers coming in next week that we won’t be able to get product inside of until we get things worked out with our insurance company to get a new structure started. It’s been a big learning curve real quick.”

Mandy says they are still on a search and rescue mission concerning much of their inventory.

Photos courtesy of A & H Hose & Fitting

“There are some [hoses] that ended up in the field and air conditioning ducting and things that were lightweight blew away,” she says. “That’s my project for the next few days — finding out how much inventory I’ve lost. Now that we have it all piled up I can climb through it.”

Even while the Harts labored to come to terms with the extent of the damage in the dark aftermath of the storm, the spirit of community shone bright. As helpers showed up with skid steers and excavators to move debris at A & H, several blew out their machines’ hydraulic lines in the process. The Harts and their team members responded by doing what they know best: they utilized the remains of their damaged shop to make and hand out new hydraulic hoses to anyone who needed them.

“People were volunteering and donating their equipment to come help move and clean stuff up, and that was the least we could do,” Mandy says. “I just can’t imagine them volunteering their time and their equipment and us not taking care of them.”

It will be a long road to recovery for A & H, with their main production facility possibly being declared by engineers “a complete construction loss,” according to Mandy. But the Harts take comfort in knowing that their contacts in the equipment rental community have them in their thoughts.

“Our rental family — people from Cincinnati, all over Ohio, in Michigan and all over the country — reached out to us personally to say, ‘If you need equipment, if you need whatever, just call us.’ They’re an amazing group of people,” Mandy says.

In addition to serving the equipment rental industry through A & H’s product line offerings, Mandy also serves as an associate member director on the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Michigan chapter board of directors. Those interested in supporting A & H’s rebuilding efforts can learn how to help at the ARA of Michigan’s Facebook page.

Tim and Mandy Hart encourage anyone interested in contributing to relief efforts aimed at the broader region to consider supporting the local chapter of the United Way.