Rescuers in Houston answered hundreds of desperate calls for help on Sunday as floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey climbed high enough to fill the second floors of homes and stranded families were urged to seek refuge on their rooftops. Areas south of the city appeared to be hardest-hit. Earlier in the day, the National Weather Service said the "catastrophic flooding" in Houston was "expected to worsen." Alexa Ard / McClatchy
Rescuers in Houston answered hundreds of desperate calls for help on Sunday as floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey climbed high enough to fill the second floors of homes and stranded families were urged to seek refuge on their rooftops. Areas south of the city appeared to be hardest-hit. Earlier in the day, the National Weather Service said the "catastrophic flooding" in Houston was "expected to worsen." Alexa Ard / McClatchy

Fort Worth

How do you clean up the mess after Harvey? Disaster pros say it’ll take years

August 28, 2017 1:57 PM

Before Hurricane Harvey ever became a Category 4 hurricane, restoration companies were already planning for the worst-case scenario on the Texas coast.

“When that storm was an X on the Yucatan Peninsula, every restoration company in the country was on high alert,” said Shane Hobbs, owner of Dalworth Restoration in Fort Worth.

But remediating the massive mess in Houston can’t begin until the the flooding ends.

Hobbs said Dalworth won’t be sending crews down, but has been providing assistance to other large companies trying to find equipment to send to the Texas Coast.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I haven’t seen anything like this,” Hobbs said. “It’s absolutely horrible. It’s going to take a long time to recover from this. We’re talking years.”

By Monday, big restoration companies were moving resources towards Houston.

Matt Odachowski, president and owner of Royal Plus Disaster Restoration in Snow Hill, Maryland, was sitting in a Texarkana RV park on Monday, waiting for the water to recede in Houston. He had about 15 tractor-trailers and several recreational vehicles with him and will have about 50 tractor-trailers of equipment eventually in Houston.

“It’s like moving a Home Depot,” Odachowski said, adding that he plans to get there as soon as he can get in. “I’m planning on having water on my tires.”

Hundreds more from other companies are also on the way, Odachowski said. The first priority will be getting businesses reopened in Houston.

Royal Plus Disaster Restoration of Snow Hill, Maryland, has 15 tractor-trailers stationed in Texarkana, ready to drive into Houston once the roads are passable. They’ll be filled with equipment to help deal with water damage.
Handout Royal Plus Disaster Restoration

“In order for a community to start rebuilding, you actually have to have the resources,” Odachowski said. “That means opening up retail stores, food stores, gas stations and schools.”

Locally, Haltom City-based Blackmon Mooring already has 10 tractor-trailers in the Houston area and 300 employees on site from its offices in Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Oklahoma City. So far, the floodwaters have prevented any restoration work from getting started, said spokeswoman Kelly Campbell.

Crews aren’t just headed to Houston.

Jeff Stokes, owner of a ServPro franchise in North Richland Hills, was headed to Port Aransas Monday as part of the company’s disaster recovery teams.

ServPro’s North Richland Hills franchise will be sending crews and equipment, including this 53-foot tractor-trailer to the Port Aransas area this week.
Kristi Stokes ServPro of North Richland Hills

Other crews will follow once they’re able to start working, said Stokes, who also owns the Denton franchise.

“We’ll be dealing with hotels, strip shopping centers and other businesses,” Stokes said. “We’re staging equipment in San Antonio and in Garland. Depending on the job, we could there from two weeks to three months.”

Companies are planning for the long haul.

“We’ll probably have Christmas trees in our RV’s,” Odachowksi said. “I can pretty much guarantee that.”

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

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