Hurricane Close Calls Bring Community Together

Three years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the central Gulf Coast, including New Orleans – and that city and the Houston/Galveston area survived another glancing blow and direct hit, with comparably much less damage.

by Carlos David Mogollón

Three years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the central Gulf Coast, including New Orleans – and that city and the Houston/Galveston area survived another glancing blow and direct hit, with comparably much less damage.

This time, though, the hurricanes were Gustav and Ike. Strength of the first dipped as it struck New Orleans, which has recovered only by fractions since Katrina. New dikes held and pumps, contracts for some of which were questioned days before, performed fine overall. The second, larger storm's strength dipped as well, sparing Texas' offshore oil rigs and coastal refineries but leaving much of the nation's fourth largest city without power for weeks.

You'll notice a couple of missing items from this issue as a result, as columnists Jay Collert, training director for the Aarcher Institute, and Bob Matthews, reliability manager for Royal Purple, both live in the Houston area. On Sept. 16th, emailing from his Blackberry, Collert – who writes the "Environmental Compliance" column – said he had no power and likely wouldn't for "the better part of a week or more due to Hurricane Ike."

Meanwhile, "Pump It Up" columnist Matthews replied via email on the 18th that the phones were back, some trucks were showing up to ship products and his office was relying on generator power to start taking care of customers as quickly as the recovery allowed. He also shared this uplifting note:

"It is so cool to see the employees show up and know that they are OK. There are lots of stories about the storm we hear on the radio but what I see is so much worse. Every time a gas station gets gas or one runs out someone will call the radio stations and they announce it so we can find gas for our generators. I feel for those without any power.

"My dad is 84 and he was at the FEMA trailer in his small community at 6 a.m. yesterday. And, at 8 a.m., someone showed up and told him they opened at 10 a.m. and he could have one bag of ice and one case of water. He couldn't wait as he had to check his generators and left. I showed up after 1 p.m. with 55 gallons of gas and behind me was a FEMA volunteer with three bags of ice, some water and two boxes of army rations. Dad was so happy. This morning, the county judge showed up with a tarp to cover his house, what a blessing. His house is OK other than no shingles and a little wet inside but his garages and out buildings are gone. It took a day's work to clear a path to the front door. We're blessed our trees are trimmed and a cool front came in, so the mosquitoes aren't too bad yet. Friends are helping friends.

"I am without power for the next few weeks at home with a small generator to help out – that's much better than some others. I have four other families hooked up to my generator and cooked gumbo for 56 night before last and 50 came over last night for a fish fry. We have the trees off all the homes on my street and are helping others. To see a child in disbelief when their swing set is gone or they can't go in their home because a tree is broken at the base and leaning toward their house is heartfelt."

What tests us brings us together and makes us stronger, Bob would agree. It takes a community.

On that note, we launched our new WaterWorld Community online portal – community.waterworld.com – in September. Independent of the main website that all three PennWell water publications funnel into, this site is more of a MySpace for water industry professionals. Individual members can peel off into subgroups such as the Industrial Water Forum to discuss issues of specific interest. We had well over 200 members as of the first couple of weeks even without a formal announcement. We're looking for moderators to help seed the site with discussion topics, comments and video and photo links. Join now!

Carlos David Mogollón, Managing Editor

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