Post Storm Accidents Overwhelm Coast Body Shops

In the five months since Katrina slammed ashore, drivers have been slamming into one another. The evidence can be found at automotive body shops.

The increase in accidents means a back log of work for those who fix cars.

"This one here, this car was hit on the left hand side," said Dennis Dauro, walking through his shop, which is now filled with collision damaged cars.

Dauro's Auto Repair is on target for another record month. And while storm damaged vehicles account for some of that business, it's mostly accidents.

"People fighting the traffic. Rushing. Down 49 it's really packed. People have so many things on their mind, they're not paying attention. And collisions are just really, really high," Dauro explained.

So high that Dauro's crew is working 12 hours a day, six days a week.

"There's been a lot of wrecks. A lot of wrecks. We have had record breaking month after month of volume," he said.

It's easy to find blame for the increasing accidents since the hurricane. Broken stop lights, damaged roads and storm related stress could all be reasons. And it's not just in Harrison County.

"At least a 50, 60 percent increase in accidents," said the shop manager of Ferguson Automotive on Lemoyne Boulevard in Jackson County.

That shop is also playing catch up. They're currently backed up two months. And most of the work is the result of accidents.

"With the Ocean Springs Bridge being out and the Bay St. Louis out, there's only so many places to travel. And it's just wreck after wreck, non stop," said Mike Allen.

Ferguson's stayed closed for three months after Katrina to clean up its own storm damage. The owner expected he'd book a lot of storm damaged vehicles.

"Kind of surprised. Most of us thought it would be storm related. After we opened back up, we were out of business three months, and we got back in and most of our cars were accidents," said owner, Tommy Ferguson.

Like many of the drivers whose vehicles wind up here, body shop owners say the post-Katrina accident rate shows little sign of slowing down.