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Houston Hammered by Hurricane Harvey; Rebuilding to Take Years


Hurricane Harvey has hit the Houston area hard. At least 13 people are dead, with many more injured, as parts of the Houston area were inundated with more than 40 in. of rain, according to forecasters. Totals could reach 50 in. as rainfall continues.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called the storm “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced,” and said the region would not recover anytime soon.

Richard S. Szecsy, president of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, spoke to Rock Products, and said the Houston area will be rebuilding for years.

"First and foremost, let's not forget about the human tragedy involved here," he said. "That is the most significant impact. Our main concern is that people are safe – both the employees and families of those involved in the construction materials' industry down here, and everyone who is facing the devastating impact of the hurricane."

Szecsy said that aggregates producers and concrete producers cannot even begin to gauge the consequences of the storm on their operations. In most cases, they cannot even get to their plants to assess damage.

"We know that for many concrete operations, whatever materials they had on the ground is probably lost," he said. "For sand and gravel producers that had operations on the river, it is likely their inventory is gone. The damage to processing equipment, trucks and loaders will be heavy."

In terms of seeing robust business in this year's third quarter, construction companies and material producers just saw that opportunity washed away.

In the short term, they will not have any projects to supply anyway. "Commercial construction has all been halted," Szecsy said. "On-going projects have stopped. After the water subsides there will likely be municipal work on roads and bridges that need a quick fix."

The scope of the tragedy will have a ripple effect on many of the services residents take for granted. "Think about failing sewer systems. The energy grid. The operations of the local refineries," Szecsy said. "There will likely be a huge impact on fuel costs, especially diesel, which could go up 30 to 50 cents-per-gal."

One big concern is the fresh water supply. Szecsy said that could be impacted by failing levees.

In the coming months, Houston will be facing major reconstruction and a vast need for building materials, from plywood and sheet rock, to carpet and tile, to asphalt and concrete. Entire neighborhoods and highways will have to be built again.

"Ours is a tough industry," Szecsy said. "They will dig in and do what they have to do to put Houston right again. I am sure of that. And this certainly will not deter people from moving into the Houston area, where we have exhibited a lot of growth recently."

For the tens of thousands of people who are spending their time in shelters, what waits up the road can only be an improvement over their current situation.