Remembering Hurricane Harvey
On Friday, August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas—causing historic levels of flooding that, at its peak, left nearly one-third of Houston underwater, $125 billion in damage and nearly 13 million people reeling from the impact. One year later, we’re reflecting on Hurricane Harvey and hearing from a few of our employees who were on the ground at the time—both as responders and as Texas residents.
Jacob Fenske, a project manager with our innovative services team, was called in to help with Hurricane Harvey at 3 p.m. on Friday. By 6 a.m. the next day, he was in the field overseeing the response efforts of a more than 70-member team in Baytown, Texas. Within a matter of hours, Jacob and CTEH’s technical experts had set up an off-site onboarding center at a chemical plant that had taken on water. They were quickly able to ensure accountability of the 40-plus acre site—a task that usually takes weeks, if not months, to achieve. At the time, Jacob described the atmosphere as “solemn” as people “piled up their whole lives in their front yards.” All over, folks were facing a “waiting game” as they contemplated the future of their jobs, homes and even their next meals. As the days went on, however, he and his team helped “people take a step toward normalcy,” a job he said has “never been as rewarding as it was during Harvey.”
BJ Fogleman, a project manager in our Kemah office at the time, started off as a manager of a forward response team with an equipment trailer and a couple personnel. But soon after the rain relented, he took over as area operations manager, where he led coordination of personnel and equipment logistics for the 100+ team on a number of responses in the Houston area. They handled a wide variety of tasks, including conducting aerial surveys, deploying equipment and monitoring the health and safety of the public and skeleton crews in facilities. As a Houston area resident, BJ was shocked to see flooding in areas where he and his team members’ friends and family members lived. Looking back, BJ said he’s still humbled by CTEH’s “ability to be flexible and respond—even in a high-stress, high-hazard situation that hit close to home.”
Justin Langley, a TERP project manager with our Kemah office, remembers Houston during Hurricane Harvey as “post-apocalyptic.” As the lead for night shift air monitoring and environmental sampling, he said it was a struggle to "find resources like fuel, food and batteries” so his team could even perform basic operations. Despite these challenges, he was impressed by CTEH’s “ability to get the right people in the right places in a very short period of time.” Today, he’s still thankful he had the opportunity to use his technical expertise to support his fellow Houston residents by identifying and developing solutions to address the many chemical and safety hazards they couldn’t see. And, knowing that he was part of the team that “aided Houston getting back on its feet as quickly as possible made every long week and time away from family worth it.”
Thank you to all the CTEH team members who responded to Hurricane Harvey. Even in dire circumstances like these, as BJ said, we’re proud to have a team that “never takes its eyes off serving others” and “remains focused on doing whatever we can—big or small—to help those in need.”