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Looking for a Revenue Rainbow After a Destructive Deluge

Veteran contractors in Texas have learned to take superfluous rainfall in stride.

Fri June 26, 2015 - National Edition
Giles Lambertson

Texas-sized rain storms did a number on The Lone Star state in May and June. But project owners, contractors, and construction workers in Texas, like their counterparts elsewhere, are pretty philosophical about the dilemma.

The National Weather Service says 37 trillion gallons of rain fell in Texas in May, the wettest month on record. Some $45 million dollars in damage to roads, utilities, bridges and bayous was reported in the Houston area alone. Nearly 70 counties in the state were formally declared disaster areas by state and federal authorities. And, of course, at least two dozen lives were claimed by flood waters.

More to the point, several weeks of prime spring construction time were lost as rain fell, waters rose, and equipment yards sat idle. Estimated completion dates slipped or new pressure was brought to bear on contractors to meet original dates. Paychecks shrank as crews worked reduced hours.

Before you start up about climate change, note that spring floods are not unheard of in Texas. The state is a natural dumping spot for Gulf storms stirred up by spring winds and its terrain readily gives up in floods whatever falls on it from the sky. But the rains this year were especially dramatic: When Tropical Storm Bill moved across Texas in mid-June, its passage was unremarkable.

Yet veteran contractors in Texas take superfluous rainfall in stride. After all, what flooding taketh away, it giveth again. Estimators and supervisors might stew, but company executives know that rising aquifers, swollen ponds, and streambeds with water actually running in them again bode well for future construction contracts as ranch and farm-based local economies grow more prosperous. They know that pavement and bridge repair, culvert replacement, and highway embankment work will be coming their way in pretty short order. They just have to be patient.

As right-of-ways dry out and pile-driving sites become workable again, bad feelings about spring storms evaporate, too. To everything, there is a season.

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