When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, it left a path of destruction 150 miles long, with millions of tons of debris and billions of dollars in damage in its wake. Even the hundreds of graphic images appearing in print, on television and on web sites could not effectively convey the enormity of the cleanup task that lay ahead.
Now, just over a year later, progress is apparent in many areas throughout the coast. Some communities, mostly further inland, have only a few visible scars from the storm. Basic services have been restored and life has returned to some degree of "normal." But for others, the concept of "normal" continues to be a long way off.
Obviously, damage as severe and extensive as that inflicted by Katrina can't be cleared away or repaired overnight. Yet, contractors working throughout the region have made — and continue to make — amazing strides. Their stories (many of which are highlighted within this issue) include the clearing of thousands of gallons of water out of New Orleans' streets in just four weeks; restoring traffic on major interstates in a matter of days; and razing and clearing away acres of concrete structures within a few short months.
Such stories are only the tip of the iceberg. Numerous contractors have worked countless hours to remove debris and repair damaged buildings and infrastructure. The goal for many has been to do whatever it takes to restore livability to hard-hit communities.
Boh Brothers is a good example of this determination. This large contractor, headquartered in New Orleans, performed temporary repairs to the I-10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain after Katrina hit, restoring traffic flow along this major artery. And just recently, it was awarded the contract to build the bridge's replacement.
According to Robert Boh, company president, "We are just trying to stay active and accomplish as much as we can. We know the community here is counting on the work of our industry to try to make it a safe place to live, and give it a confidence factor so people will come back to work and live here."
Thanks to such efforts, slowly but surely, cities and towns all along the coast are finalizing cleanup operations and starting to rebuild. Some, such as the city of Biloxi, MS (see related story on page 20), have plans to come back even bigger and stronger than before.
The volume of work to be done is substantial. The biggest limiting factor, at least for the short term, will be availability of funds to finance reconstruction.
"We foresee the remaining work to be much more than we've done," says one contractor working on various infrastructure projects in the Gulf. "It's just a matter of time, once the funding is arranged, before it will all be out for bid again."
When that happens, progress should come quickly. For many communities, the plans are already in place. It's just a matter of time and money before the rebuilding — and subsequent healing — process can truly start.
To stay abreast of rebuilding operations along the Gulf Coast, visit our Hurricane Rebuilding site at www.ForConstructionPros.com.