Hurricane Obliterates Asphalt Plant

We lost over $300,000 worth of equipment when Hurricane Katrina ravaged ashore in Gulfport, MS in August 2005. It did so with its winds reliably estimated at 100 to 125 mph and spared practically nothing in its path.

Unfortunately, we were only partially insured, but we felt that we had to replace and repair our equipment as soon as possible to stay in business. There was no other option other than to go out of business. We were determined to get back up and running.

During the storm we had a 12- to 14-foot water surge in the plant that came in from a nearby fluctuating tidal flow canal. It flooded our asphalt and crusher plants and buildings. There was at least 2 feet of water in our offices and 4 feet of water in our laboratory building. We knew this from the high water marks left on the walls and equipment. Our plant's control house was totally blown away with no pieces or sections ever found. The feeder bins which were ground level were swamped with salt water for days before we could even come into the area to see the damage.

The motors on all the stationary equipment had to be overhauled on the asphalt plant and the Telsmith RAP crusher because of the saltwater intrusion. Even our compressors had to be replaced. Anything that had moving parts had to be fixed. Our liquid heater units and tanks were damaged when a roof over that equipment was blown down and crumpled. Even the roof took the concrete foundation with it.

I came in a couple of days after the hurricane, as soon as I was allowed. Our employees came in soon after and we all started to clean up whatever we could. We started by removing the bottom four feet of sheet rock from the office building. Then we took out the insulation and rewired what had to be done. It was very hot during the time, so we also had to replace the air conditioning units as quickly as we could to dry the air and prevent mildew damage.

I called Tom Baugh with Astec right after the storm and he came down to assess the plant and crusher damage. Since the control house was blown off its platform, he was able to quickly find a used house and we installed all new computer equipment in it for our operation. Since much of our plant equipment was Astec manufactured, Baugh knew what we needed. He was also able to ship us seven refurbished feeder bins soon after the storm. Fortunately the units were already being worked on before the storm and almost finished by the time we needed them.

As a result of everyone's hard work, the company was able to be back up and running in about 60 days. This time, the feeder bins are situated above ground. Some newer and more advanced equipment has been added. And some older equipment has been replaced with newer equipment while the changes were being done.

We couldn't wait; we had to get back up and running. We had a subcontract to pave a section of the damaged Rte. 90, but had to buy our asphalt from another supplier who had been spared the flooding we got. It was a cost plus contract with Stockstill Construction Co. They did the grading and we did the paving of the many damaged sections of that road on the western part of the scenic byway. It was home to the many residents and port.

"One of the first impacts of Hurricane Katrina was the almost immediate increase in materials price. The price of asphalt the day before the storm was $13.50 a ton. Two weeks later, after the storm, the price jumped to $19.50 a ton. Several weeks later Vulcan Materials was quoting a price for all sizes of Limestone aggregate alone at $24.80 a ton, almost double the price that it was before the storm," says Jay Bond, James' son.

Cooperation was the name of the hurricane recovery game. It was the Mississippi DOT and local asphalt producers and contractors, the equipment manufacturers, the navy's construction battalion (Seabee's) and civilian contractors.

Everyone working together did what no single company could do alone. Mississippi's Gulf Coast is slowly recovering and a semblance of normality has returned. It couldn't have been done otherwise.

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