When disaster strikes, friends come together | 339 (October 2017)

Houston deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

2017-10-24 15:23 Views 328

Houston deals with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

David Perez, Houston

I n late August, global news cycles were dominated by Hurricane Harvey, a cyclone of historic magnitude that originated from West Africa to eventually pass through the Caribbean and North America. When it landed at Rockport, Texas – located 186 miles southwest of Houston – it was classified as Category 4, with winds reaching 130 mph.

The devastation Harvey caused to Southwest Texas and Louisiana was immense: estimates placed 70% of the areas surrounding Houston as flooded by at least 1.5 feet of water at some point during the hurricane, with 136 thousand structures partially submerged as a result. Harvey was responsible for at least 82 deaths and between $70 and $200 billion in damages in the United States, with a large portion of that sustained by uninsured home owners. Houston, home to LUKOIL International’s Region 2 office, was particularly hit as the hurricane stalled and remained in place there for days. Although the company’s office had to be closed for six days, LUKOIL’s Emergency Response (ERT) team worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and comfort of all staff.

Hurricane Harvey

The Coming Storm

Harvey’s journey began as a tropical wave storm offshore West Africa in early August. As it reached the Caribbean by the middle of the month, Harvey had been classified as a tropical storm, hitting the islands in its path with heavy rain and gusty winds. By the time it made landfall near the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, Harvey had grown into a Category 4 hurricane.

Harvey dropped 51.88 inches of rain, a new record for tropical storms in the continental United States. This is equivalent to 30 trillion gallons, or 113 trillions liters of water trillion liters of water, enough to cover the entire United States with one inch of rain. That is why numerous flash flood emergencies were issued for the Houston and Beaumont, Texas metropolitan areas at the end of August.

Houston’s topography is relatively flat, making the area particularly susceptible to water accumulation and flooding. In the 1940s, dams and levees were constructed upstream to address the problem. Today the water they release flows down the Buffalo Bayou and into Houston. After Harvey struck, the water level behind the dams exceeded the levee’s high mark, flooding local homes and threatening the integrity of the levee itself (a potential catastrophe for Houston). The Corp of Engineers was thus left with no option but to release water downstream into the Buffalo Bayou at unprecedented volumes, wreaking enormous damage on homes, businesses and infrastructure. As thousands of Houstonians searched for temporary shelter, help poured in from across the United States to deal with the aftermath of one of the worst floods in the country’s history. LUKOIL’s staff was no exception.

LUKOIL Responds

Hurricane Harvey

Each new staff member arriving at LUKOIL’s Houston office learns the safety rules – including evacuation procedures – for potential disasters like flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes as part of the company’s induction program. The Houston ERT Team, including Mr. H.D.Hogan, General Manager, Bill Miller, C&P Sr. Manager, Oleg Yain, Corporate Security Manager, and myself, took special measures to address Harvey’s potential impact before the hurricane hit the US mainland.

We monitored the weather conditions and met every morning to assess the impact on our employees and contractors, ensuring that every staff member was safe at all times. Based on this information, we sent out updates to employees via cell phone and email. A 24-hour hotline with storm information and office status was continuously maintained.

LUKOIL’s Houston office was able to reopen six days after the initial flooding. ERT staff assisted in the relocation of three LUKOIL families from their homes into hotels until the flood waters subsided. However, many portions of the city remained closed much longer due to severe street flooding. Perhaps most importantly, soon after the worst of the hurricane had passed, LUKOIL’s other employees volunteered their personal time to the ERT team and affected neighborhoods to help with the cleanup efforts. Many staff members donated personal items, including clothing, to assistance centers located around the city. Here in Houston, the memory of this storm and its effect on our lives will be long lasting.

David Perez, HSE manager, LIUW

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