The tornado that tore through downtown Atlanta on March 14 and the heavy thunderstorms that followed it left behind miles of destruction in the city and in residential areas just outside the city limits. And while volunteers from the Salvation Army handed out food and water and neighbors helped each other with downed branches and minor cleanups, an army of contractors, feeling the impact of a slow building period in Atlanta, prepared to take on work they may not have bothered with several years ago.
According to Michael Dunham, executive vice president of Georgia’s branch of the The Associated General Contractors of America Inc. (AGC), the slowdown has been primarily in home building. But in the wake of the storm, contractors have found a steady source of income in the many home repairs necessitated by the storm — jobs too big for homeowners to tackle, but small enough to keep the houses from being torn down.
“Initially,” Dunham said, “contractors were out securing houses with tarps, doing patch repairs and cleaning up and repairing tree damage. They wouldn’t have wanted to patch roofs not too long ago, but the storm has made a big difference.”
In the downtown area, one of the hardest hit attractions was the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and it was here, according to Dunham, that the contractors are seen as “the champions of the day.”
The GWCC sustained damage to its roof and had many water problems. But the job that was done fixing it was “phenomenal. We lost only one convention,” said Dunham.
By March 26, less than two weeks after the storms, the GWCC was able to welcome two long-scheduled conventions, both of which went off without a hitch.
A big problem throughout the city center, one that is taking longer to remedy, is glass loss. There are several reasons for this delay in addressing this.
“One thing we are finding,” said Dunham, “is that most of the glass can’t just come out of the factories, it was custom made. Another thing is a manpower shortage — not enough glaziers. Now in storms I’ve seen across the country, groups see the opportunities whether the need is for roofing or tree removal or whatever. We will start seeing glass companies and glaziers coming to Atlanta.
“Overall, the cleanup is going well. Every day there are fewer street closures, a good sign that things are cleared up. Things are getting better.” CEG