Deck spans that had fallen into the lake had to be removed and subsequently crushed into rip-rap for fill. A Manitowoc 4600 crane with specially rigged spreader bars was used to lift the slabs from the lake.
What makes the project even more impressive is that many of Boh Brothers workers had been displaced by the storm. "By the time we started that job, I guess we had about two-thirds of the employees back, and it increased from there," says Boh. "We set up some temporary facilities on some of our property and at one of our yards. We put in some bunk beds and offices. We just tried to meet the needs the best that we could."
It also took a lot longer than anticipated to get back into the main office. "It took until December for the phone lines to be reconnected," Boh says. "We couldn't move back to this building until then, even though the power came on about six weeks earlier. That was a big problem.
"Otherwise, it was just trying to do a lot of work in a short time," he continues. "It was long hours and long weeks."
Clearing the debris
Southern Gals Construction participates in first response. "Once a storm is predicted to make landfall in a certain area, we enter 24 hours in advance and wait for the storm to pass through," says Rebecca Zito. "Instantly, we go in and start clearing the streets so the emergency vehicles are able to enter the area."
The work is not easy. "There are plenty of crews that have been doing this for years, but it is a hard business to stay in," says Zito. "You have to stay on top of the regulations and you need to maintain productivity goals. So it is a constant battle."
Keeping debris cleared during reconstruction in New Orleans has proven a full-time job for contractors such as Southern Gals Construction and D&A Construction. According to Zito, these companies are running a combined fleet of seven trucks and two Bobcat T300 track loaders with grapple buckets. In addition, she notes, "You have these required types of dump trailers that have to meet certain criteria."
Contractors are paid by the load. Each load is driven under a tall tower where a FEMA estimator calculates the load size.
Contractors are also assigned the types of items they are allowed to pick up. "There are crews that go around just picking up white goods (washers, driers, dishwashers, refrigerators)," says Zito. "We basically pick up all the personal things that come out [of homes] that were destroyed by the storm. Also, when they tear out the walls, we pick up all of the sheetrock, wood and other household debris."
The work goes on seven days a week. "Basically, you start at 7:30 every morning," says Zito. "The dump where you take the debris closes every day at 6:30 p.m. Then you spend most of the evenings on maintenance of equipment."
Safety is heavily emphasized. "The Corps of Engineers watches it pretty closely," says Zito.
Basic working conditions continue to be difficult. "It is still pretty scarce to find someplace to eat, but service stations are starting to stay open more," says Zito. "Things are still pretty much cash only." There also remains an employee shortage.
Persevering in adverse conditions
May at the Mustang Cat Rental Store is proud of the way his company and employees responded to the crisis. "A lot of the guys here had their homes damaged and they left that alone to get equipment out to contractors for the cleanup," he states. "This last two weeks, one of our guys is just fixing his roof from the storm."
Reaction time to the storm was immediate. "We got back here on Monday when we could finally get in," says May. "At that time, we evaluated that our building was shot." Portable buildings were quickly brought in. "By Monday evening, we were receiving calls to ship equipment. We started shipping out on Tuesday."
Demand for equipment was intense. "Everybody was needing everything we could get our hands on," says May. Amazingly, the storm didn't damage Mustang Cat's existing equipment fleet. "We had one cracked windshield on one off-road dump."
Lifting equipment was particularly desirable. "Everybody was looking for telescopic handlers — anything you could lift the downed trees with," says May. "Front-end loaders, excavators with thumbs and grapple buckets were all very hot items. They were trying to get anything that could lift or reach and grab."