(Re)Building for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters: Part 2
Last week, we wrote about how proper preparation and rehabilitation of structures go a long way to preventing loss of life and property in a natural disaster. In our half-century of work, we’ve engineered safe solutions for historic structures, large industrial-purpose buildings, towns and neighborhoods, and transportation needs. Yet each of these projects comes with different requirements and sets of best practices.
In particular, transportation planning and project execution are highly affected by weather events.
For example, when we work on bridges, we design for resiliency, accounting for the extreme conditions that are brought about by natural disasters such as flooding, impacts from debris, high winds, and earthquakes.
Transportation infrastructure and its ability to perform at its best is as much a need before and after as during natural disasters. As we saw during Hurricane Matthew’s evacuation of the South Carolina coast, the sudden increase in travel needs and potential for dangerous weather can be an instant game-changer after the call is made by the governor.
On our construction projects, we are in close contact with local and SCDOT representatives and in the event of incoming bad weather, all barrels, cones, and temporary signs that can be removed from the project are removed to avoid the risk of becoming projectiles in high winds. For projects on evacuation routes, we always are prepared to meet protocols, which include stabilizing sites and staging the project to allow for no lane reductions as well as seeing that all possible lanes of traffic are opened.
We also maintain 24-hour monitoring of all projects for the duration of the storm. After the storm, we assess the damage and make any emergency repairs that are needed to keep the roadway open. Once the evacuation is complete, permanent repairs are undertaken to the roadway.
In Charleston, low-lying areas frequently are prone to flooding, but our work on the city’s drainage system improved much of the recovery. The City Market area notoriously has been waterlogged in previous storms, but thanks to our work in progress, installation of drop shafts and a new tunnel 120 feet underground, many businesses avoided incoming water and were able to open the day after Hurricane Matthew passed – an improvement over years past. The next phase of the project being designed includes completing the drainage project and improvements to the streetscape.
Steve Kirk, the city’s senior engineering project manager, said the pump station ran for hours and pumped over 50 million gallons of stormwater in total. The project is still yet to be completed, but we’re so pleased at the early successes of the project and grateful that the City of Charleston had a quick and safe recovery.