On June 5, Tropical Storm Allison rolled into Southeast Texas. There its movement stalled and the storm floated above the area, dumping as much as three feet of rain in six days -- causing one of the worst floods in Texas history. Reports estimate the storm may have caused up to $7 billion in damages. Twenty-two people were killed by the storm before it moved north and eventually soaked Philadelphia.

There have been more than 20,000 flood insurance claims in the state of Texas, amounting to nearly $350 million.

The Houston area is experiencing a critical shortage of trauma care facilities. An entire hospital is closed because of the damage caused by the floods and several other facilities are not operating at full capacity.

There were many unusual problems that confronted Houston area plumbers -- including a call from the Houston Zoo requesting a desperately-needed pump that was able to move 50,000 gallons of contaminated water to save the sea lions' habitat.

One of the greatest threats facing the area now that the floodwaters have retreated is mold. The hot summer days in Texas are made livable by air conditioning that deteriorates air quality and helps optimize conditions for mold growth. The combination of drywall, insulation and other building materials that were soaked in muddy water from the floods, and the air conditioning creates an environment that is very hospitable to mold contamination.

Allen Penn, a Houston plumber whose business includes residential and commercial jobs says "In six to 10 months, we are going to have a tremendous problem with indoor air quality because of this flood and the mold it's going to cause." Penn already has trained his staff in mold remediation techniques and advises other plumbers do the same.

Penn's business has been boosted by the floods and he expects this trend to continue. "We're seeing a lot of gas fixtures that were at or below ground level that have required complete rebuilding," says Penn. This is in addition to the obvious demand for remodeling in both the commercial and residential sides of business.

The question facing Penn is whether or not he will be able to handle the increased business, since his shop was flooded and he lost at least $130,000 of equipment and many uncounted labor hours.

Penn is located in one of the areas most heavily hit by the flood, the southwest side of the city.

On the northwest side of the city, which wasn't hit as badly as other areas, Walter Pickett's local residential business has seen only a slight increase in work. However, Pickett anticipates a larger increase in business further down the road when homeowners begin to remodel after figuring out what is salvageable and what needs replacing.

Other issues to contend with are reports of insurance fraud. It seems that some homeowners have used the flooding as a means to update their plumbing systems. Contractors must be wary of the jobs they choose to service and know the risks associated with taking on a job that pays with money coming from an act of fraud.

If you would like to offer assistance to the Houston area, please contact the American Red Cross at 713/526-8300 or 877/725-0400, or log onto its Web site at www.houstonredcross.org, and click on the Tropical Storm Allison link.