Superb Roofing owner Josh Janczewski drove from New Braunfels, Texas to head to Orange, Texas and the St. Charles, La. area to help the victims of Hurricane Laura. As he and his family drove through the streets, they couldn't believe the devastation caused by the Category 4 hurricane that generated winds of 150 mph.
The awe and heartbreak they felt wasn't due to inexperience. Not only did Janczewski's company complete restoration work during Hurricane Florence in 2018, Janczewski and his family experienced Florence firsthand while living in Jacksonville, N.C.
“There’s a lot more devastation here than just roofing work,” he said, comparing the aftermath of Laura versus Florence. “There’s buildings and houses that are literally wiped off the planet, or in somebody else’s yard...it’s the worst we’ve ever seen, that’s for sure.”
The damage caused by Hurricane Laura making landfall in the U.S. on Aug. 27 was extensive, with pre- and post-event imagery and roofing contractors like Superb Roofing attesting to the devastation. The storm caused the deaths of at least 36 people in the U.S. and an estimated $8.7 billion in insured damage in Louisiana and southeastern Texas.
Janczewski said he expected to stay in the area for the next month, anticipating they could complete contracting work for the next six months to a year. He said the company may even seek out licensing in Louisiana on top of working in southeast Texas.
“Somebody’s going to have to do the work. It’s not something that we’re at home hoping happens or something crazy like that, but when it does, it’s good that people know that there are contractors that will treat them as if they were family,” he said.
Janczewski's observations of the storm damage are backed by EagleView, which teamed up with GIS Solutions to capture high-resolution aerial imagery using drones following Laura's landfall. The imagery is being used by customers in local government, insurance and residential construction so they can fully understand the storm's impact, and shows large swathes of damaged and destroyed buildings.
"We provide our customers with the data they need to begin the rebuilding process," said EagleView COO Jay Martin. "By closely monitoring the storm and the airspace in its aftermath, we are able to take to the air first, allowing us to serve our customers most efficiently in their time of need."
Not long after the storm hit, Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana announced the commencement of Operation Blue Roof, where the Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with FEMA are covering the acquisition and installation of temporary blue tarps for residential properties at no cost to homeowners. The program, however, doesn't cover all roofing systems, such as flat roofs or metal, clay, slate or abestos tile, meaning roofing contractors are essential to bringing relief to homeowners.
Even roofing contractors from out of the country are lending a hand. Pink Belts Construction is an all-female crew that traveled from Alberta, Canada to southwest Louisiana to help with the rebuilding efforts. According to NBC/CW+-affiliated KPLC, the company is looking for volunteers and is partnering with businesses to speed up the recovery.
“So, the projects that we’re working on, we’re doing roofing. That’s my trade. I deal with insulation, remediation, drying out, tear down, you name it,” Robyn Garton, president of Pink Belts Construction, told KPLC. “We just want to be a part of it and help the people become settled because we believe that when the people are settled, then the rest will fall into place. It’s the people that come first...We’ve got to get the families settled; the people settled. Humanity starts first. You know what, the contracting work will come after."
The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) warned homeowners and businesses to exercise "extreme caution" when selecting roofing contractors to help with any repairs and restoration. The NRCA’s consumer website, www.everybodyneedsaroof.com, offers resources roofing professionals can share with customers regarding how to handle roof system repairs after natural disasters such as hurricanes.