Plumbing contractors, supply houses and manufacturers reps were among the victims of the floods that ravaged the area around Baton Rouge, La., in mid-August. More than 12 in. of rain fell on the area within 48 hours with the Amite River just east of Baton Rouge rising more than 30 ft., according to www.climate.gov, breaking by 6 ft. flood records going back to 1921.
The rising waters flooded more than 146,000 homes and 200 churches, at last count, along with retail stores and other commercial buildings, says Mike Mullen, co-owner of Baton Rouge-based A.H. Deveney, PM’s 2016 Manufacturers Rep of the Year. And while rebuilding and restoring all these properties will mean new business for contractors, supply houses and reps, it will come at a terrible price.
“We’ll see the local construction industry will benefit but it’s a shame it will be at the misfortune others,” Mullen says. “You don’t want it to be on the backs of other people. Your heart breaks because you don’t realize the devastation that water can cause.”
Hits and misses
A.H. Deveney was lucky in that water did not damage its offices and warehouse. Streets around the building were flooded and phones were knocked out, but the company forwarded business calls to the cell phone of Kim Mullen, Mike’s wife. In the immediate aftermath of the storm a skeleton crew of Kim and Mike Mullen, sales rep Philip Ragusa and bookkeeper Paula Briggs kept the operation going.
Not so fortunate were two Deveney employees whose homes each were flooded with 4 to 5 ft. of water. One house was a rental with all the uninsured contents destroyed. The other house was covered with homeowner’s insurance but still may have to be razed despite the cleanup efforts of Mullen and other Deveney employees. Mullen says the rep firm’s vendors have stepped up with donations to the flood victims.
Also taking a hit were some of Deveney’s contractor and wholesaler customers. Southern Pipe and Supply’s branch in Denham Springs, La., was severely damaged with 6 ft. of water coming into the building. Director of Human Resources Ron Black says all the product on the floor was either damaged beyond repair or had to be cleaned. All flooring and walls were being replaced and an extensive showroom renovation will have to be completely redone. After being closed for a month, the branch was scheduled to reopen in mid-September.
Nearby Southern Pipe branches in Baton Rouge, Hammond, LaPlace and Mandeville, La., filled in to serve customers, Black notes. Numerous Southern Pipe employees from neighboring branches assisted with moving furniture and cleaning flooded homes. Fifteen employees lost everything in the flooding, including homes and their contents and automobiles.
Flood waters reached 7 ft. high in the plumbing shop of one of Deveney’s contractor customers who also had 22 trucks damaged. Another contractor had 3 ft. of water in his building and 15 trucks damaged.
Ways to help
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association activated its Disaster Relief Fund to provide immediate assistance to its members as a result of the flooding. The fund was established in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, PHCC has assisted members victimized by Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes in the Midwest, and flooding last year in Texas and South Carolina.
“We are deeply grateful for the generous support of our members who contribute to assist other contractors whose businesses were adversely affected during the recent flooding,” says PHCC National President Chip Greene of Greene & Associates in Macon, Ga. “This reinforces the caring and giving spirit of the PHCC.”
Another example of this generosity, he says, is the PHCC Educational Foundation’s action to replace 50 plumbing apprentice textbooks damaged by water at the PHCC Baton Rouge Apprenticeship School. The building took in 3 ft. of water and is facing significant repairs and reconstruction.
“We lost a lot of the furniture,” says PHCC member Jerry Payne, who runs the school. “We need desks for the students, new conference tables and a replacement for our copier machine that was 2 ft. underwater. We’re starting to put things back together, but help would be very appreciated.”
Anyone who wishes to help the school or other victims of the flooding can do so in these three ways:
Direct Support for the Apprentice School: Contact Julie Fuselier at the Louisiana PHCC Chapter (225/344-0620) or Payne directly (225/413-0685) if you wish to contribute materials or funds to assist with the school’s restoration.
Contribute to the Foundation: Past contributions to the PHCC Educational Foundation provided the funding to replace the textbooks for the school — and provide the education, training and help contractors need every day. You can make your gift online at www.phccfoundation.org/invest or by calling 800/533-7694.
Contribute to the PHCC Disaster Relief Fund: Donations may be made to the PHCC—National Association’s Disaster Relief Fund to help support members whose businesses have been disrupted by major disasters, either now and in the future. Visit www.phccweb.org/disaster-relief to donate.
Supply House Times Editor Mike Miazga contributed to this report.