In light of the recent record-setting floods in Texas, government entities, companies and individuals have stepped forward to ease the pain of residents and businesses across the ravaged state. Employees of Xylem, with offices in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, acted quickly to support the dewatering needs of local businesses.
"During the storms, we were hunkered down just like everyone else—Saturday, Sunday and into Memorial Day," says Xylem Regional Manager, U.S. Dewatering Solutions, Robert Cloud. "We have that in common with the emergency response teams in the municipalities. When it's over, we are prepared to mobilize our equipment in the affected areas. During the storms, we were in contact with our regional branch managers to ensure coverage and availability once the storm passed."
While some parts of Texas are accustomed to flash flooding, other sections are not prepared for the kind of downpours experienced late this spring. The National Weather Service (NWS) declared May the rainiest month in Texas history, presenting residents with life-threatening floods that also created property damage estimated to exceed $45 million.
"In all, more than 37 trillion gallons of water have fallen in the state. Flooding ... swept away thousands of vehicles and trapped people in their cars and houses," according to the NWS. CNN's headline put it this way: "Enough Rain Fell in Texas in May to Cover the Entire State 8 Inches Deep." Worst of all, at least 31 were killed in the state.
"Flooding is one of the most universal—and destructive—challenges facing communities, and what occurred in the past few weeks in Texas and Oklahoma is a stark reminder of this threat. Our first priority is to help communities prepare before these disasters strike," says Xylem President and CEO Patrick Decker.
Recovery began immediately after the storms, according to Xylem Vice President of Sales for U.S. Dewatering Solutions Mike Delzingaro. "We were preparing for what they were predicting, working with our customers and ready to react a week prior to the event happening."
The response started the week before Memorial Day in Corpus Christi.
"We deployed four 12-inch pumps as well as another two dozen 4-inch and 6-inch Godwin pumps to local municipalities and industrial plants," Cloud says.
"In the City of Houston, they have more infrastructure available for flood control, and we supplemented their fleet of Godwin pumps with another half-dozen CD150Ms. We work closely with contractors and local municipalities," says Cloud. "Stormwater infiltration overwhelmed the wastewater system and many of the plants in and around Houston."
At a local refinery in Corpus Christi, Xylem personnel set up a series of small and large dewatering pumps to get the initial dewatering started.
"Our broad U.S. footprint allows us to support regional efforts by bringing in additional equipment from around the country, as needed," according to Delzingaro.
"It takes a full team," says Cloud.
This phase of cleanup took about two weeks.
"Some jobs were on hold because those areas were inaccessible due to flooding. The rivers receded, so we began to look for infrastructure damage, areas that are filled with standing water where the water would not recede naturally. Dewatering will continue as the damage from the storms continues to be assessed."
The situation in Houston cleared up pretty quickly thanks to strong infrastructure. In areas where flooding is uncommon, the recovery would take longer. Once the power returned, cleanup could begin in earnest. "They are not used to that type of rain or planning for that kind of dewatering," Cloud says of Dallas.
After the most crucial needs were met, officials began addressing other issues. "There will be long-term projects at some facilities that we work with,' Cloud says. 'In one project there are infiltration collapses—in the walls there is infrastructure damage. Repairing these are long-term projects."
The Xylem team spent weeks in June dewatering industry facilities, municipal complexes, parking lots, schools, hotels, and other businesses and areas throughout flood-affected Texas.
Following a flight over the Blanco River, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference in Wimberley that "you cannot candy coat" the damage. "It's absolutely massive. It's a powerful message to anyone in harm's way of the relentless, tsunami-type power this wave of water can pose to people. The rain bans that span literally from south of the Rio Grande to north of The Red River have been relentless day after day. The grounds and the rivers are saturated and filled; that creates a relentless flow of water."
Gov. Abbott declared a state of emergency, and so did President Barack Obama.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid was made available to the State of Texas and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Aid continues to come from neighbors, as well.
"We are responding to our customers—not just one market or one single customer. Whether it is a small contractor or a refinery that needs multiple pumps, we treat them all the same. They have a need, and we can provide the service. We respond with our full range of dewatering products and our people," Cloud says.
Decker adds, "Our colleagues have been working non-stop in Texas and parts of Oklahoma to help dewater the affected areas as quickly as possible. We were in place before the first storm hit to ensure we could respond immediately. But this work will continue for several weeks as we help the communities and businesses to recover from these devastating floods."