The Buffalo James Lynn Hurst

Hurst Towing was established on January 16, 1987.  On January 25th, 2021, life changed in a moment for James Lynn Hurst, Owner of Hurst Towing in Fultondale, Alabama. Hurst Towing was leveled by an F3 Tornado. In mere seconds, the business was swept away, 16 trucks damaged and another building collapsed. Operator, Blake Whisonant held onto the driveshaft of the heavy wrecker as the building collapsed upon them. Blake’s life was spared by the hand of God. When night became day, it was easy to see that the only things Lynn and his loving wife, Debbie had left were faith and their towing family.

It didn’t take long before towers across the state started showing up to help.  Many people came to encourage and just be there. Jimmy Shatz, Opie, and Shannon of ABC came out that night. Kevin Goodyear of Goodyear Towing dropped 2 trucks at his Hayden location, saying the keys are in them, use them however long you need to use them. Greg Hinds of Austin Hinds Motors dropped off new units only days after the loss, saying, “We can horse trade later.  Your business and family are my # 1 concern.” Miller picked up our rotator, delivered it to their facility where the M100 is built and made it their #1 priority! ABC Towing, Weil Wrecker Service, Kirkland, and Bambarger came to our aid.

The outpouring from the tow community was Lynn and Debbie’s answer that God had a lot more in store for them! This community and our faith gave us the strength to rebuild. The devastation made us rethink many things where we were deficient.  When this tornado hit, we had 200 + cars on our lot, checks and paperwork out for end of day, and keys to cars just hanging on hooks.

Administrative paperwork, laptops, desktop computers, checks, keys etc. were gone, and some were recovered from other counties. We were underinsured as many. Who thinks about extra coverage for fences?  We do now after $40k of fence was destroyed.  So, this disaster brought about many changes. Lynn stated, “I say underinsured because now many years later replacement cost, materials, inflation, and new building regulations drove the price sky high, making a previous $900,000 building now $1.4 million to replace.”

We have had hard times; this type of pain can bring out the best and worst of you. Just like purifying aluminum, you get sloth that comes to the top. If you don’t get that sloth on the top it stays in and ruins the product.  Lynn stated, “I used to write down my offenses to God and had a list of over 30, until I heard God say, when are you going to stop counting your offenses and start counting your blessings?” These are moments in life that will change you, and it goes back to your foundation.  Ours was built on the Rock of Jesus.  What is yours built on?

Skip, our operations manager passed unexpectedly, and his passing rocked our world again!  Skip was not just an employee, but a dear friend and a key person in our day-to-day operations. We walked by faith through the rebuilding process that took patience from Debbie, and the hard work of our dedicated team for a little over 2 years!

During the rebuilding process, the building was coming along when an Ernest T Bass type of fellow came in and commented on a Facebook live where I shared my faith in God.  He continued with his thoughts on the rebuilding process and told me I reminded him of a buffalo. His story theme was when a heavy storm approaches, wait through it.  A herd of buffalo will purposely run into a storm to limit the time and duration of pain while running during the storm which takes courage.  He said, “Lynn you keep being a Buffalo, my friend!”  His statement stuck with me, and we restored the #44 truck, placed a buffalo on its hood and showcased it at the Chattanooga Tow Show. It felt like my story had come full circle with the building of this truck which helped bring some closure to a tough chapter of life.

These tough losses changed our procedures.  We now have lock boxes.  Everything is locked away, i.e.:  titles, checks and paperwork before leaving. We have a secured wall-mounted key box for all client’s car keys, coverage for TOTAL replacement of our fences, and more building coverage to absorb raising future costs.

We have done something special for our employees as well. I watch them through their probationary time like any company does a new hire. After they have shown their work ethics and commitment to the job, they receive a bag with a custom patch Buffalo Soldier. This has been an awesome way to reward our employees by showing them that we see them, and they are now part of our Hurst family!

Taking from what we learned the hard way, look at your policy.  Don’t delay.  Do it today.  What would it cost to rebuild it all tomorrow?  20%, 30%, 60% or more? Always be prepared, and make sure your foundations are built on a Rock!