Rising Above: Contending With Hurricane Harvey’s Aftermath

From Construction Executive. In the days and weeks after Hurricane Harvey’s cataclysmic late August landfall, the resilience of the south Texas construction community and the area that it serves was put to the ultimate test. The largest storm to hit the United States since 2005, Harvey slammed into Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane, and then it dumped more than 40 inches of rain as it meandered across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

It would become the wettest – and one of the costliest – storms in U.S. history, displacing more than 30,000 people and prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to create the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas to address the billions of dollars in damages. Consequently, demand surged for construction, machinery, building products and engineering firms – a trend that will likely continue for years.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) offices from Corpus Christi to Nederland were impacted to varying degrees, along with hundreds of member companies. In impressive fashion, an army of ABC volunteers helped with evacuations, food, clothing and shelter, as well as aided customers with repairs and restorations – even as some dealt with their own personal tragedies.

The membership of ABC’s Southeast Texas Chapter in Nederland suffered the worst of the flooding. Chapter President/CEO Kimberly Bernard watched the hurricane on television, worrying that her sister’s house in Houston would flood, never thinking that her own home would fall in the crosshairs. But by 3 a.m. on Aug. 30, the floodwaters were lapping at her front door.

“For a while, I controlled the water with blankets, but that wind wouldn’t lay and the water just kept coming,” Bernard says. Thankfully, her son-in-law came to the rescue in a small flat-bottomed boat. By then, it was daylight and the water had risen by about a foot.

The ABC office in Nederland was spared from the flooding, and the board of the Southeast Texas Chapter quickly called a meeting to determine the scope of the damage and map out next steps. Initially, not much could be done. In the days that followed, the floodwaters continued to rise and flooded streets made it impossible to get to jobsites.

Once roads were passable, ABC member contractors and suppliers began assessing the damage. Motion Industries – Drago Supply Division’s Groves and Port Arthur branches played key roles in getting materials to its industrial customers, even as they responded to the needs of their own employees. The company supplies power components such as motors, pumps, drives, belts, chains etc., along with power tools, hand tools, safety apparel and welding supplies.

Several weeks later, the company was still running double time. “We’re short on people, so everybody’s wearing several hats,” says Brent Rozell, account representative. “Everyone’s doing everything they can to make sure the customer gets served. We have a number of key customers that were greatly impacted. They need to get back up and running.”

Due to some strategic planning, Motion Industries was able to mobilize rapidly after the storm. “We did some staging of items that we knew were likely to be needed, and we moved those in as soon as the channel of transport opened,” Rozell says.

Craig Messer, vice president of ISC Constructors, says while his company’s Beaumont office was only minimally impacted, about 10 percent of his workforce (the office employs more than 250 people) had to deal with flooded homes. Another problem was the Beaumont water supply was shut off as the Neches River crested and flooded city pumps.

“We went from having city water to nothing for about five days,” Messer says. “Even though we were open, that significantly impacted our office.” Fortunately, a team of about 60 people – comprised of ExxonMobil personnel, contractors such as Tiger Industrial Rentals, Echo Maintenance LLC and Bo-Mac Contractors Ltd., and city employees – worked with the city around the clock to develop a temporary solution to help restore water service.

Through it all, Messer says ISC has remained cognizant of its industrial clients’ needs, boosting its local workforce by 25 percent to meet demand. After all, electrical and instrumentation repairs are at the top of the list in most flood situations. “The affected industrial facilities here had motors go under water,” Messer says. “You have to troubleshoot those motors and see if they are still good, and there’s a lot of piping and instrumentation that goes along with that.”

Elsewhere in the state, communities just north of Corpus Christi caught the full force of the Category 4 hurricane winds and storm surge as Harvey made landfall on Aug. 24. The Rockport area, in particular, was devastated by the high winds and storm surge.

Members of the ABC Texas Mid Coast Chapter, such as communications supplier VCS Companies in Victoria, some 60 miles north of Rockport, quickly heeded the call and began meeting the needs of customers and the local community.

While VCS sustained water damage, lost electricity and phones for about three days, its losses were comparatively minor.

“Our VCS location was stocked and ready to help with phones, tablets and accessories,” says Lynda Parma, spokesman for the company. “VCS was available to run service calls, help people communicate, help with cleanup and assist customers’ mode of operations.”

When an existing industrial customer, Formosa Plastics, lost fiber optics, VCS worked four, 14-hour days to run 2.5 miles of aerial fiber optic cable to get them back up and running. Along with Motorola, VCS also assisted the Aransas County Sheriff’s Office by erecting a portable communications tower and supplying 50 radios, as well as supported the community by volunteering and providing needed donations.

“We are blessed that we are able to pay it forward to those that were, and still are, in need,” Parma says.


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