The Texas Two-Step
“We started construction on this plant in April 2006,” Ballard says, “and we kept our old plant running while we were building it.” The aggregates company continued to supply its customers with aggregate throughout every phase of the new plant’s construction.
The new primary plant was completed in June 2007 and was set to start running on June 29. But as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” And it fell on the new plant on the night of June 28. The Marble Falls area received 19 inches of rain that night.
“We showed up the next morning to turn the plant on, and it was flooded,” Ballard says. “Nobody had any idea, because it happened through the night. I had berms, but I didn’t have berms to protect against 19 inches. That water just cut the berms out and came right into the pits.”
In the secondary, where construction was still ongoing, the damage was very bad. Construction equipment was still in use there and most of it was under water. A crane that was being used in the tunnel running beneath the surge piles was completely submerged; only the tip of the boom could be seen sticking out of the flood water. The crane was just one of many pieces of equipment lost to the flood that day.
“The whole town of Marble Falls, where the creeks and rivers run through it, was devastated,” Ballard adds. “There were boats in the streets and cars wrapped around poles and houses were destroyed. We had people who lived in those areas. We were in the process of trying to get pumps to clear the quarry, but we had people who had lost their homes and needed places to stay.”
Trying to take care of the quarry and help employees at the same time was quite a challenge, but everyone pulled together – employees and management alike – and help came from everywhere. The parent company, Zachry Corp., sent people from the corporate office in San Antonio to help clear the quarry and sent money, clothing, food, and water to aid employees who had lost everything in the flood. The company even moved one displaced employee and his family into an empty house on company property for a period of nearly five months until they could be relocated to another home. The company took care of its people, and the employees banded together to help each other and repair the plant.
“I got eight pumps in here from Houston and borrowed pumps from a company in San Antonio,” Ballard says. “I had about 16 pumps pumping water out of here. In three days, we had it pumped out, but what it left us with was an MCC [motor control center] house that was suspect now, and we had to go through it. All the idlers, and everything that was under water, had to be replaced. We expedited everything that we could and had everything going within three weeks.”
When the primary finally started up three weeks after the flood, the secondary still wasn’t finished, so the rock had to be hauled from the surge pile in the new primary plant to the old secondary plant in order to keep production going. The operation ran that way for five months until the secondary was completed in November 2007.