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Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper Archive: October 2, 2005 - Page 29

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   New Mexican (Newspaper) - October 2, 2005, Santa Fe, New Mexico                                D4 THE NEW MEXICAN Sunday October 2 2005 GULFCOAST Rebuilding With what and with whom Shortage of workers tools materials likely mean a long wait for residents By Michael Rubinkam The Associated Press NEW ORLEANS Roberta Stewart picks through the rriuck layering the first floor of her home her bare legs splattered in mud her eyes surveying the putrid mess from behind a gas mask Now that Hurricane Katrinas floodwaters have ebbed she asks who will help her rebuild The builder I was going to use who I trust is in Fort Worth because he lost his Stewart says Ill have to find another That could be a tall order With hundreds or even thousands of builders wiped out by Katrina their tools lost and workers scattered homeowners looking to rebuild quickly are in for a shock The scope of home destruction is so sweeping that it will likely stretch rebuilding for years It took more than a decade to reconstruct all the homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew after it hit Florida in 1992 Katrina destroyed 10 times as many homes as Andrew The difficulty of rebuilding could be exacerbated because Gulf Coast contracting has long been the province of small independent companies without the deep pockets to recover quickly That has spurred outofstate contractors to pour into the region increasing competition for labor and driving up prices When the regions contractors do get back on their feet most of their time will be directed at repairing homes that arc salvageable not rebuilding those that were destroyed industry experts say About contractors belonging to the National Association of Home Builders are based along the Gulf Coast While there is no reliable estimate of how many of them were put out of commission by the storm the group says it is likely in the thousands Theyre not in a position to help right said Jerry Howard the groups CEO Thats clear in the story of Ronnie Wirth who ran a construction company from his home in a neighborhood flooded when a canal breached Wirths house and business are gone So are the six homes he was in the process of building All his equipment is beyond repair Subcontractors and employees are scattered across the South He is sending his waterlogged computer to a company in hopes of rescuing the hard drive that contains all his records and contacts Weve been wiped he says The business was insured but of course we didnt have enough for this type of damage Everybodys in the same boat right Even contractors who werent directly hit by the storm are feeling its effects Phil Hoffman a custom builder who escaped damage said many of his suppliers and workers lived in flooded parts of New Orleans Some of them havent come back home yet and some of them wont even have a place to come home he said Demand for the few workers left is skyrocketing Our builders say they are having trouble keeping their normal crews because people are literally buying them off job said Marty Milstead head of the Home Builders Association of Mississippi One Gulf Coast roofing company reported losing two of its crews in a single day he said Companies with workers are paying them more than before and charging far higher prices New Orleans roofers are charging for every 100 square feet nearly triple the going rate before Katrina In Biloxi building has resumed on houses that had been under construction But the cost per square foot has increased from to S99 realestate agent Nancy Stone Bourgeois said The demand was obvious this week at a Home Depot in Gulfport where customers cars stretched from the entrance out to the street Contractor Robert Mackley of Gulfport with a pickup full of lumber said people have to understand why contractors are raising their rates Its supply and he said The increased cost of materials and strain put on the industiy because of hurricane damage over the past two years in Florida didnt help anything Its going to drive everything Even in places where there are plenty of contractors demand far outstrips supply In the battered Eden Isles subdivision of Slidell across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans signs planted on street corners advertise everything from tearout services to electrical work The development hums with activity But the need is so great that volunteers from Slidells First Baptist Church who are ripping out soggy drywall throughout the neighborhood have a waiting list of 400 homeowners with more added every day Getting contractors back in business is only one impediment to rebuilding The appetite for construction materials and labor in the Gulf Const will be voracious i over the next few years which could raise prices of wallboard Photos by The Associated Press Construction worker Edwin Munoz climbs a ladder to work on a roof of a damaged home in the Garden District of New Orleans With hundreds or even thousands of builders wiped out by the Ktorm their tools lost and their labor pool scattered homeowners who hope to rebuild quickly in the wake of Katrina are likely in for a surprise Roberta Stewart looks at pictures of her New Orleans home damaged by Hurricane Katrina at her mothers home in Bell view Heights Ohio With a mortgage payment hanging over her head the hospital administrator has little choice but to rebuild her ruined house But nearly a month after Hurricane Katrina she still has no idea who will do the work cement Southern yellow pine and other building materials said Robert Murray an analyst with McGrawHill Construction Research and Analytics Katrina has already boosted the prices of lumber plastic piping and scrap steel from which rebar is made said John Mothersole senior economist at forecasting firm Global Insight But he said the price spikes could be moderated by softening demand elsewhere in the housing market as interest rates go higher Gulf Coast homeowners also must be wary of flyby night builders scores of whom descended on Florida after Hurricane Andrew It really gave our industry a black eye We learned that we had to be much more proactive in encouraging homeowners to hire licensed contractors said Edie Ousley a spokeswoman with the Florida Home Builders Association Andrew holds many more sobering lessons for Katrina victims Thousands of Floridians lived for years in trailers provided by the federal government while rebuilding was delayed because1 of a lack of contractors Some gave up Andrew spurred a large migration out of the area that bore the hurricanes brunt Andrew wrecked homes and it wasnt until 2003 that the last were rebuilt accord ing to Howard o f the national builders group That n raises serious questions about how long it will take to rebuild after Katrina which destroyed homes by Red Cross estimates The creeping pace of progress unnerves homeowners like Stewart The hospital administrator who will start a temporary job in California in early October is trying to find someone before then to begin work on a home where mold is quickly climbing the walls I wont be here to oversee the she said I need somebody I know I can Rita taught companies key lessons for future By Sudeep Reddy The Dallas Morning News DALLAS For some companies it turned out to be little more than a drill Hurricane Ritas menacing outlook led many businesses to take more extensive action than they did ahead of Katrina And even though the storm made a tamerthanexpected landfall it offered a testing ground for new pages in the companies disaster playbooks One persons overreaction is another persons said Dallas business consultant Greg Bus tin It really goes back to the Boy Scouts motto of being prepared Those that may have overprepared never theless came out far better than their Of course eveiy major company had a disaster plan in place long before the two hurricanes hit But many ended up honing their approaches and tap ping resources across their networks to meet special needs Tenet Healthcare Corp sent in satel lite phones lined up ham radio opera tors for backup communications and even rented flatboats in case of flood ing at one Houstonarea hospital With Katrina officials at the Dal lasbased hospital chain saw two of their New Orleans facilities flooded by fetid water with thousands of people stranded inside Tenet ultimately hired a fleet of choppers to supplement the sporadic government rescue effort and hired armed guards to protect the facilities For Rita Tenet evacuated only the most critical patients but kept a pair of choppers on standby for rescues It also had to adjust part of its usual disaster preparation effort when the contraflow instituted on highways intended to speed up the evacua tion blocked a supply convoy headed toward Houston Tenet flew in drugs and other sup plies and sent 18 hired guards to pro tect its Houston Northwest Medical Center When people stuck on Hous ton highways in the evacuation began showing up with heatrelated prob lems the hospital was ready for them The skills and knowledge learned during the massive undertaking with Katrina made for a welloiled process with Rita said Tenet spokesman Steve Campanini It was clear we knew what we were doing because we had just gone through he said Like Tenet Southwest Airlines Co flew volunteer workers into Houston Hobby airport to relieve overworked local employees who were simultane ously trying to care for their families With operatipns throughout Florida Texas and the Gulf region Southwest knows the hurricane drill as wel as any carrier But Katrinas aftermath emphasized a few lessons that would prove useful for Hurricane airline cor ralled wheelchairs and cots from air ports across its network along with bottled water and packaged food to send into Houston and other areas affected by the storm It helped that we have 29 flights a day between Dallas Love Field and Hobby which is the fifthlargest city in Southwests network measured by daily flights said Ginger Hardage a spokes woman at the Dallasbased carrier Computerservices firms which help clients run their technology operations during disasters were already doing plenty of postKatrina work when they had to be prepared for Ritas arrival International Business Machines Corp put the technology operations of several clients from the New Orleans area into a facil ity in Farmers Branch Texas IBM planned to fill its empty parking lot with mobile trailers to add space if needed after Rita but that ultimately wasnt necessary spokesman Lon Levi tan said Communication difficulties became one of the biggest problems facing emergency responders and other offi cials as a result of Katrinas heavy blow on New Orleans With Rita Verizon Wireless said it ensured that emergency generators were fueled and had technicians ready to repair its towers The company also had mobile cell towers ready to deploy throughout the region Rita was expected to hit including Houston Emergency workers police and gov ernment officials increasingly rely on wirelessnetworks to communicate go cellphone providers err on the side of being overprepared said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jimmy Duvall A Tot of things we did this time werent necessary but they may be necessary next he said Dallasbased TXU Corp applied lessons learned from the massive June 2004 storm in North Texas the regions worst in a century to pre pare for an onslaught of customer out age reports Its competitive business unit TXU Energy brought in more than 300 employees including top executives to field customer phone calls over the weekend TXU Electric Delivery which is responsible for maintaining the regions power grid first sent its work ers to Florida and then Louisiana to help other utilities with repairs after Katrina One of the biggest challenges was securing food and housing for workers in areas that had few remaining busi nesses So Eddie Deen barbecue trucks followed TXU trucks out to Louisiana and TXU workers took over a shut tered New Orleans hotel even hand ing out keys themselves to serve as a command center After Ritas arrival TXU had people repairing lines in East Texas and used a shuttered paper mill to house workers Utilities have always dealt with weatherrelated outages but each one offers lessons in staging workers and positioning crews to enter just behind j storms TXU spokesman Chris Schein I said You always learn something from j a storm and we always get plenty of input from workers in the field j Schein said j After backtoback storms nies of all sizes should be considering I basic disasterpreparedness issues J such as backing up computer files checking insurance policies and ensur ing the safety of workers and facilities I Bustin said Companies that dont take action could be left without much of a com pany Whether its Y2K or now this act of God the weather if youre not prepared for those kinds of condi tions then you have to be prepared to accept the Bustin said   

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