The aggregates industry stood tall when hurricanes hit Houston

Therese Dunphy

October 3, 2017

In late August, Hurricane Harvey dropped nearly 52 inches of rain on Houston. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly 600,000 structures were damaged, with one in four of those structures sustaining major damage or destruction, and almost 35,000 people sought shelter away from their homes.

While many of us watched coverage of the storm and donated funds, members of the local aggregates industry did much, much more. They got in their trucks or their boats and helped with rescue and cleanup efforts.

Rob Van Til, a managing partner of River Aggregates, LLC, and his family worked with local teams to help people whose homes were damaged. “What I’m proudest of is the community’s response,” he said. “It’s not about cars or buildings or equipment. It’s about people.” Rob and his son volunteered with a crew helping to gut homes that needed to be torn back to the studs. His wife and daughter made food and transported those who had lost their homes as needed.

Although he’d joined Alamo Cement as its central Texas market manager less than a month before, James Oquin quickly volunteered to help with rescue efforts. With the full support of his company, James hauled his airboat to Houston, where he spent a night sleeping in his truck before getting a call from the Fulshear Police Department for help with an emergency medical evacuation. He transported a woman who was 36 weeks pregnant, along with her husband and two dogs, to the hospital. Over four days, he helped rescue 60 people from their homes. “It was amazing,” Oquin says.

On his second day in Houston, James spotted the bright yellow safety gear sported by a crew from Hanson Aggregates, including its Houston area operations manager, Darryn Lindsey. When Darryn learned that James didn’t have a place to stay, he offered him one at his house and made sure he had shelter until returning to San Antonio. “I was really just pleased to run into a fellow industry guy out there doing the same thing; sacrificing his time and using his own boat to come down and help out. I thought that was pretty awesome,” Darryn says.

Darryn was assisting rescue efforts with his incoming and outgoing Brazos Plant managers Jake McCurry and Sean Steagull. They took a boat used to access the plant’s dredging operation and shuttled residents out of the Weston Lakes area. Over the course of the day, they ferried between 25 and 30 people to high-water vehicles that could transport them out of the neighborhood. “Everybody was pretty grateful. They knew we were all there as volunteers, just trying to help them,” Darryn says.

When disaster struck, these are just a few of the members of the aggregate industry who quietly went to work helping neighbors and strangers alike. So, walk a little taller, hold your head a little higher, and know that your industry friends and peers truly served as good neighbors to the greater Houston community.

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