Preparing for a Flood, a Job Well Done

Floods March 23, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Lesson Index

Planning for Tomorrow's Floods

Flood Case Two

Everybody around here knows at what water level things get serious. They say that when the river gets to 25 feet, it’s time to be concerned. The television and radio newscasts said the crest was going to get up to around 28 feet, which is up toward the top of the levee. I also listened to the old guys who have been around here for years. They got nervous and worried, too, which confirmed what the forecasters had said. They have lived here all of their life and are the ones who know what’s really going to happen. So I started to take action. The flood didn’t just happen, boom, all at once. We knew people working on the levees. There was a general concern that maybe it was time for people to start moving out. That’s when people in town started packing up and we started to do some things, too. Our plant is six miles from the levee. The guy I am replacing had been here for 30 years. He’s still here and was able to give me advice. He was here through the last flood, in 1993, when the levee broke and there was 12 to 14 feet of water covering the facility. He knew what he did right and what he did wrong. We talked about it. Experience is the best teacher. The fear of repeating what happened after the last flood was important. Everybody talked about the mess the stuff they left behind was in when they returned. It would have been so much easier, they said, if it had been moved. This time, we had it mentally worked out what we wanted to do. We started on the things we knew would take longest. I have an advantage here because I have another plant up in the hills about 10 miles away. Early on, we hauled everything up there that we could. Then we were still able to get products and services and could operate out of the other plant. We have five people at the location that flooded, and everybody was involved. We also hired truckers to come in and move out the dry fertilizer. We had five or six guys hauling, because at that time we decided it was fairly serious and figured the floods could reach us in a few days. We brought in a big loader (which was being stored in our company’s warehouse) that can move faster than ours to dump over the sides of the trucks. We had a lot of fertilizer on hand because we took advantage of a low price, so it took about three days to load it all. We took what fertilizer we could to my other plant and took some to a warehouse we rented about 30 miles away. The warehouse was big enough to hold 800 tons. We had asked around, telling other people we needed space. I called one of our main chemical suppliers because the majority of what we had on hand happened to be their chemistry. We called for shuttles one day, and they had them in by the next day. They sent about 20 shuttles. In our building, bulk chemicals are inside a dike. Just like the fertilizer, we had actually refilled some bulk chemical tanks because the prices were good at the time. It just happened that we were loaded up more than we would be under normal conditions. We had more than 4,000 gallons of bulk chemicals. We probably spent two days pumping all of our bulk tanks into shuttles. We hauled them with our trucks to our other facility. One of the guys who worked here and one of his relatives who had a pickup with a gooseneck came and helped us. We took the pumps and meters and everything out of the chemical room. We put water into the tanks. Where we could, we used that water when we reopened for mix water. For what was left, we contacted a guy and sprayed the water out on a wheat field. The tanks inside are bolted down. But in the last flood, flood waves destroyed buildings like ours because the doors were shut. We knew that you have to open the doors to let the water in; otherwise the water destroys the sheds. We didn’t have too much packaged material, but what there was we put on pallets, shrink-wrapped, and hauled to our other location. We called the seed company and they picked up their seed. In this area, everybody works together. Any seed we had already delivered to farmers’ sheds we went and brought back. We picked up everything our customers had, even stuff that they hadn’t bought from us. We even picked up mini-bulks.

All we carry here is 32%. The tanks are bolted in a dike. We just weighed and transferred the product to our other location. We knew that if we got a flood like the one we got in 1993, the water would go over the dike because it’s about six feet tall. We pumped the tanks empty, and then pumped them full of water so they wouldn’t float away. During the last flood, the waves and winds moved the tanks around. There is always the risk of losing products and chemicals. We couldn’t take that risk. We also have a 2,000-gallon fuel tank and a 1,000-gallon fuel tank. We pumped all of the fuel back into the fuel trucks. We didn’t actually move the fuel trucks, because if the levee broke, we figured we had a day to move the trucks based on the last flood. We had plans to take off all of our electrical boxes, too. After the last flood, there was such a mess when they came back. I had just redone many of the chemical buildings and spent a fair amount of money there. The electric company was here every day. If the levee had broken, the first thing they would have done would have been to pull the three-phase meters. They would have killed the electricity so it would have been safe for us to start unbolting the electric boxes. We talked about moving the blender and mixer out. But that would have been fairly expensive,because we would have had to hire somebody to come down and do all of that. This thing is about 18 years old, and the cost of moving it (as opposed to the cost of reconditioning or trading it off) was kind of a wash. We decided to leave it there. We emptied much of the office, including the files that were the most important to run our business. We know a guy who had a low trailer so we loaded it up. If the levee had broken, we would come in and get the remaining files, computers, copier, and electronics. We left all of that hooked up. Actually, I have a van and took all the seats out of it so if something were to happen, I was going to put all of the computers and equipment into my van. Here in the bottoms, most our customers were doing the same things. After this had gone on for a couple of weeks, the river was still high. People thought there was a chance the levee was going to hold. We had corn to spray and beans to plant. Things started happening. We were running the business at the same time. We used the other location, because it’s where all of our supplies were. We also kept a guy down here, but there wasn’t much to do. He was here for our customers. We were away about three weeks. It then took us a couple weeks to get back to normal. Thankfully, the levees held and we never flooded.



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