Three days after the storm, Chong was at a dealership ordering additional equipment. He has since purchased over a half million dollars worth of new machinery. "We needed the equipment. Some of our stuff was worn out, some of it went under water and some stuff we added in order to do the cleanup," he explains.
One specialty piece of equipment added was the Bobcat V723 telehandler equipped with a 7-ft. grapple bucket. Trees were stored at the local playground during the cleanup until Pipeworks Plumbing & Demolition acquired a grinder. The telehandler was used to load tree waste into trucks after it was ground up. "We are in the demolition business, so it is still very handy to us," says Chong.
The company also upgraded a Caterpillar 312 for the larger 320 excavator, and two Bobcat T300s were purchased to replace the units lost in the flooding. In addition, a 44-ft. dump trailer with a two-way gate was added to the fleet.
The rubber track loaders have been a real benefit to the cleanup efforts. The football/baseball field that served as a temporary dump site became rutted by the continuous flow of dump trucks. "Tracks were good in the slop," says Chong. "The track machines were definitely a plus. In addition, there were a lot of nails on the street. You don't have flats."
In February, Harahan was declared cleaned up by FEMA and the contract with the city was terminated. Now, Pipeworks Plumbing & Demolition has transitioned back into the business of home demolition. "We still have a lot of work to do," says Chong.
There are neighborhoods blocks long that need to be demolished. "We get in a neighborhood and we will get 15 or 20 calls from other people on the street. We are basically doing the same thing we were doing before. We take down a house, take down a slab, bring in some sand and make it look what I call 'builder ready,' " says Chong.
The company plans to be even better prepared should a future disaster strike. "We have this one under our belt and we learned a lot from it," says Chong. "We know we have to be a little bit more prepared. We had to upgrade. We keep two of everything now. We have two sets of filters. We have a larger diesel tank. We have extra hoses. We keep hydraulic fluid. We have generators. We have a game plan in case it happens again, which I hope it doesn't because we still need a lot of time to clean this mess up."
Spanning the lake
Boh Brothers traces its roots in New Orleans back to 1909. Still based in the city, this heavy construction general contractor employs 1,500, and has permanent offices in Baton Rouge, LA, and Mobile, AL.
When the storm hit, Boh Brothers was called on to perform a considerable amount of work for the Corps of Engineers. "We had quite a few pieces of equipment that were flooded, so we had to assemble equipment from different places," says Robert Boh, president. "Some of it was obtained from renting; some of it was our own equipment that was undamaged; some of it was our own equipment that we were able to fix pretty quickly and get back to work."
Boh Brothers initially repaired levies and flood walls. "Most of the work we did after the hurricane is finished. We do have a couple of those projects that are still going. And there is talk of much more," says Boh. "The Corps of Engineers has a continuing program for upgrading of flood controls in the area."
However, one of Boh Brothers' most notable achievements has been the repair of the Interstate 10 twin spans over Lake Ponchartrain. These bridges were devastated by Katrina. Several deck spans floated off of the pier caps. The westbound bridge suffered the most damage with 20 spans missing and 303 misaligned. On the eastbound bridge, 38 spans fell off and 170 were misaligned.
Boh Brothers was awarded the $29.5 million contract to repair the twin spans based on a low bid proposal. The eastbound bridge was repaired in an impressive 17 days. Cranes on barges were used to reposition deck spans that had shifted. Crews took spans from the westbound bridge to complete the eastbound bridge.
A lot of engineering expertise came into play. Hydraulic steerable trailers were placed on barges and positioned under the spans. This allowed them to be precisely repositioned. A jack and slide system, which involved hydraulic rams and Teflon plates, was also used.