The 2017 fall hurricane season proved to be the harshest to pound the U.S. coastline in years, as Harvey, Irma and Maria delivered a one-two-three punch to the Southeastern states and Puerto Rico in late August and September. During that time, WSP’s FEMA project launched over 5,800 individual inspectors working in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“We are projecting to complete just shy of one million housing inspections between September and the end of the year,” Reynolds said.
In the first 60 days after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, WSP inspectors had completed almost 300,000 home inspections. During that same time period, WSP completed well over 350,000 inspections in Florida and Georgia – many conducted while also deploying inspectors to both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
With historically devastating storms such as Hurricane Harvey, which struck South Texas in late August, danger often lurks around every corner, and conditions can dramatically change without warning.
“We were inspecting homes in South Texas while the waters were still rising in some areas,” Reynolds recalled. “Our inspectors would sometimes enter an affected area to assist a home owner, only to find that the waters had quickly risen behind them and there was no way out. Our inspectors found themselves stranded with the disaster survivors until the water receded again.”
WSP inspectors arrived in the Virgin Islands just hours after Hurricane Irma caused its devastation, only to evacuate the area shortly afterwards due to the incoming Hurricane Marie. “Many of our inspectors caught the last evacuation flight to leave the islands,” Reynolds said.
Inspectors in Puerto Rico continue to face extreme challenges on the island, which was decimated by Hurricane Maria.
“Our Puerto Rico inspectors have completed thousands of home inspections in areas with limited access, no power, no easy access to drinking water, and no communication capabilities to transfer their completed work without traveling miles to find minimal internet connectivity,” Reynolds said. “Plus, they are sleeping on decommissioned naval vessels in shared bunking areas because there are no brick-and-mortar sleeping facilities available.”
While conditions are improving in Texas and Florida, the mission in the islands will continue for some time due to limited capabilities to move resources to island communities.