Of Mice and Men and Hurricanes

Two recent events, while at extreme ends of the spectrum, once again illustrated how disruptive Mother Nature can be to what we consider a normal everyday life. The first involved a mouse, the second Hurricane Katrina.

On a recent project visit, it was obvious by the idle paving equipment that something was wrong. It was beautiful blue-sky morning, but not a single member of the contractor’s paving crew was to be found at the planned paving site. I called my contact and arranged to meet at a designated location. He pulled up in his truck, rolled down the window and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this.” My response was, “Well, I know you’re not paving this morning, so just tell me what’s going on.” He told me to jump in the truck for a ride back to the portable asphalt plant supplying the project in order to show me what happened.

Apparently the night before, a field mouse found a way into the plant’s control box and damaged a circuit board. When the plant operator fired up the facility, the circuit board also fired up — literally. It took nearly two days to find a replacement board and bring the plant back on-line. Two days of lost production was added delay and expense for this particular asphalt contractor, who had already experienced significant weather delays on the project.

And then there’s Hurricane Katrina. The widespread devastation is hard to imagine, but the images and reports broadcasted in the days and weeks that followed made it clear that Hurricane Katrina’s destructive powers were of historic proportions.

Day-to-day life and day-to-day business were brought to a grinding halt, as victims of the hurricane focused on survival. Like the many homes that were destroyed, countless businesses were also destroyed or significantly disrupted. Businesses, including asphalt producers and contractors, focused first on the welfare of their associates and then on assessing the damage to their operations.

It will take time to tally the loss many entrepreneurs experienced, but you can be sure many are regrouping and preparing to rebuild their businesses as well as the communities they serve.

While the finger-pointing will undoubtedly continue as local, state and federal officials try to sort out what could have or should have been done before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, the folks and businesses affected by the devastation realize firsthand what Mother Nature can do, and their only concern now is to get back to some sort of normalcy as soon as possible.

Even with the best laid plans of men, a hurricane or even a mouse can show us just how vulnerable we are. But the forces of nature can also show us just how resilient we are in our determination to move on.

Greg Udelhofen, Editor