Equipment Dealers Step Up to Help with Hurricane Harvey Recovery
Late on Friday, August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor, Texas, leading to unprecedented flooding throughout the region, the deaths of 77 people, destruction of homes and disruption of lives for long after the lingering storm finally left.
Hurricane Harvey began as a tropical wave off the African coast and for 12 days made its way across the Atlantic, arriving in the Lone Star State with 130 mph winds, and then as its forward motion slowed, it stayed over Texas, meandering around for days as it weakened into a tropical storm. The storm dumped more 40 inches of rain in the southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, breaking tropical cyclone rain records. Some areas, such as Cedar Bayou received more than 50 inches of rain.
Many areas of Houston and Harris County experienced severe flooding. Ninety percent of the southeastern Texas' 67 river forecast points reached flood stage, about 46 percent of the flooding set records. Palacios, Texas, experienced the highest storm surge: 8.4 feet. Harvey made a second landfall in Louisiana on August 30.
The first major hurricane to strike south Texas since 1970, Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic damage, according to the National Weather Service. The Federal Emergency Management Association has approved more than 345,900 applications for individual assistance and has approved more than $1.3 billion dollars in assistance. More than 7.9 million cubic yards of storm debris have been picked up, and 188 volunteer groups have mucked and gutted more than 16,000 flood-damaged homes. Over 89,000 flood insurance claims have been made.
Throughout the devastation and disaster recovery, local people stepped forward and aided their fellow Texans. About 4.7 million volunteer hours have been logged.
Returning Roads to Traffic
The Texas Department of Transportation drew on technology and solid preparation to reopen more than 500 locations in the six-county Houston District that were underwater. One of the first actions the department took was to identify flooded areas and alert motorists on an interactive website, DriveTexas.org, what roads were closed. Drivers also could call the department by phone for advice about alternative routes.
In Fort Bend County, TxDOT replaced a washed out 60-inch boxed culvert in four days. In another area, it removed failed mechanically stabilized earth walls, placing floatable fill, using compaction equipment and repaving. TxDOT also used Uretek soil stabilization on Interstate 69, injecting foam under the interstate without having to remove the pavement. Otherwise, the department used traditional construction equipment for the repairs.
TxDOT performed some work itself but also expanded the contracts of construction firms already working in the area to help get the roads repaired and opened again.
"Having the right equipment is helpful," says Quincy Allen, District Engineer for TxDOT's Houston District. "We couldn't have done [the repairs] without it."
At peak activity, TxDOT Houston District had 280 pieces of heavy equipment picking up debris and clearing roadways during the recovery phase, including Bobcats, 10-yard dump trucks and front-end loaders. Work was continuing six days a week into November. Crews responded from all over the state. TxDOT rotated crews in and out on the seventh day.
"It was the biggest response effort I have been involved with," Allen says. "We were well prepared with a good plan, and the plan worked."
Reece Albert, Owner of Reece Albert Trucking in San Angelo, Texas, north of San Antonio, watched media reports and felt inspired to respond. "I love to help people," Albert says. "We went down there and ended up doing a whole lot of good."
Albert heard from friends who had responded earlier about what people were facing. Homes, neighborhoods and streets were about 8 feet to 9 feet underwater in the Port Arthur area. Albert was watching newscasts, assuming the facts were being exaggerated.
"It was way worse than the media made it look like, the devastation, the amount of water and the people stuck in these areas," Albert says. "You would have to walk for miles just to get to dry land."
Entire towns were underwater. Albert learned where the needs were greatest from a walkie-talkie app being used by the Texas and Cajun natives.
"The light went off in my head that an off-road dump truck would be perfect for helping," says Albert, explaining that boats were running into difficulty as the depth of the water increased in certain high areas. "A dump truck can go wherever as long as the water is not too deep."
Although Reece Albert Trucking owns several dump trucks, Albert chose to rent a Deere 410E articulated dump truck from Yellowhouse Machinery Co. in San Angelo to ensure the seals were solid. Yellowhouse, founded in 1958 by J.E. Hancock, is the oldest John Deere construction equipment dealership west of the Mississippi. The Deere 410E articulated dump truck features a PowerTech diesel engine and heavy-duty axles.
Albert started out while the rain continued pouring down. Once in the Port Arthur area, he began rescuing people from their homes in collaboration with the local fire department to help the firefighters get to people in critical situations and rescue people.
"We were able to get to critical areas they were not able to get to," Albert says. "It was an experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget."
Picking Up Debris
Harris County purchased a Volvo EC220E Padded Crawler Excavator from ROMCO Equipment in Houston to help with the debris clean up in the suburban Spring area, northwest of Houston. The excavator features bolt-on rubber pads on the steel tracks on the undercarriage.
"It makes it safe for the machine to operate in neighborhoods on city streets, where steel tracks would have ruined the concrete," says Bryan Cannon, an Equipment Sales Representative with ROMCO. "The crews would go house to house with a hydraulic thumb attachment and bucket at the end of the excavator arm. It would act like a claw to pick up everybody's gutted carpet and sheetrock."
The excavator loaded dump trucks with the wet and heavy flooring materials, furniture and damaged items. Cannon explains that the big excavator has a long reach to lift, go over the top of the dump truck and release the contents of the bucket.
"The flooding caused so much damage to people's houses," Cannon said. "It's a sad situation. The water gets in and the smell is so putrid. There is so much you have to take out of the house before you can rebuild."
ROMCO, a Texas-based, family-owned business since 1961, also rented equipment to Texas cities, which were used to quickly pick up big piles of debris. Cannon indicates the thumb and bucket equipped excavators made all of the difference in speedy disposal of the damaged material.
"The equipment made it easy and allowed them to save so much time," Cannon says.
Plucking Sunk Boats Out of the Water
Global Diving & Salvage of Houston was contracted to recover boats that sunk in the wake of the storm surge and contacted State Service Co. in Ingleside, Texas, to help. The two companies worked together throughout Rockport, Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Port Aransas to recover 87 sunken vessels over the course of about six weeks.
Rusty Little, President of State Service, used the company's 300-ton Link-Belt cranes purchased from B-C Equipment Sales in Corpus Christi, Texas, to lift boats out of the water. B-C Equipment has been serving the construction equipment needs of south Texas since 1986, with offices in Corpus Christi, La Feria and San Antonio.
State Service also used a B-C Equipment Sales' Link-Belt RTC 8030 Pink Crane, which works to give money to breast cancer research, in the recovery efforts. State Service placed these cranes and other heavy equipment on a barge to recover the boats destroyed by the storm.
"The storm devastated Rockport and surrounding areas causing extensive property loss and damage," says Bill Lathrop, Owner and President of B-C Equipment. "These communities have a long road ahead. But we have seen people rise up to take care of each other and help recovery efforts. If there is one good thing that has come out of a bad situation, it's that."
H&V Equipment Services, Inc. Lends Forklifts for Food Distribution
By Angelle Bergeron
Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. H&V Equipment Services, Inc. has had a couple forklifts on loan for disaster relief efforts since the day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, August 25 as a Category 4 storm.
"The Monday morning after the hurricane passed, the pastor from the Church of Hope, which is right down the street from us, came in and let us know there would be a lot of food trucks coming in because the church was offering its property to be a food distribution center for an organization called Christ in Action," said Ash Wetherell, Rental Coordinator. CIA is a Manassas, Virginia-based evangelistic ministry that has been involved in disaster relief since 1998.
Bruce Harvey, H&V's President, offered the use of forklifts for the Church of Hope distribution site and for another site in Rockport so volunteers could more easily offload trucks of food for victims of the storm.
"The pastor got very emotional and said he was greatly appreciative of our loaning him the equipment," Wetherell said. "He had seen the devastation firsthand and was very emotional and eager to help those in need."
Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall with 130 mph winds and dumped more than 40 inches of rain in some parts of Texas, is being touted as the wettest storm in the history of the United States. H&V's two other locations in Progreso and San Antonio were not in the path of the storm, and the Corpus location dodged a bullet, Harvey said.
"We got a lot of rain, but no flooding like Houston," he said. "What really got hammered was 40 to 50 miles east/northeast of us. They got severe damage, and it looked like a bomb went off."
As the storm approached Texas, the folks at H&V prepared for the worst by shutting off all of their electronics and computers, as well as the main power to the building, to prevent power surges from lightning.
"We moved all of our equipment to surround the building in a perimeter to protect from flying debris and wind damage," Harvey explained.
Luckily, H&V suffered no damage. They did lose the day of preparation and the day of getting back up to speed, but again, it was nothing compared to what others suffered, Harvey said.
Two H&V employees had "substantial" damage to their homes, he added. "They live out toward the island, South Padre Island. One has since relocated, and the other stayed in his home to do roof repairs."
Governor Greg Abbott has anticipated recovery efforts will require $150 billion to $180 billion in federal money, but Harvey anticipates that won't trickle down to equipment dealers for a few months.
"A lot of people thought it would be real busy right after the hurricane, but it doesn't work like that. FEMA contractors come in first, and they're usually from out of state," he explained. "They suck up all of the initial revenue, while local businesses and owners have to wait for insurance adjustors."
By early November, rebuilding efforts were just beginning to pick up steam, which is really hard on areas that suffered tremendous damage, Harvey said. "Port Aransas and Rockport will take some time to fix."
Harvey anticipates that equipment dealers will see increased demand for extended reach forklifts, man lifts, and skid steer loaders over the coming months, both for ongoing cleanup and rebuilding efforts.