Hurricane Katrina — After the Storm
When Levy and fellow Pel Hughes execs saw their plant—and the depth of its destruction—their eyes were shocked open. No amount of preparation could have saved the company, Levy claims. No disaster scenario could have prepared him for this. There was never anything like Katrina. So, there was nothing to compare with the horror and ruin she wrought.
In the past, Pel Hughes’ disaster recovery plan had worked well. However, when compared to the disaster called Katrina, the plan had never really been put to the test. “Most hurricanes only caused power outages and disrupted our operations,” he explains. “Katrina was similar, but, once the levees failed, it became catastrophic.”
And, so were the damages to Pel Hughes. “Every piece of equipment, including three Heidelbergs, sat in two feet of water for three weeks,” Levy exclaims. “Our damages totaled $5.85 million.”
However, like many people affected by Katrina, a lot of printers pulled together in the face of disaster.
“It was very humbling to see the support that we received from other printers—even our competitors,” Levy recalls. “I feel like we became ‘brothers in arms!’ We now mutually respect each other for having survived such devastation.”
Two years later, Levy reports that Pel Hughes is operational, but the printer is still trying to regain stability. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, but we still have some work to do. Many lessons have been learned about surviving disaster, reviving your business, handling/sharing the risk—and about people pulling together in the face of adversity and tragedy. But the lessons are life-changing and ongoing.”
Chalifoux, as president of the PIAS, goes to New Orleans quarterly. Each time he goes, he sees that things are getting better. Attitudes are getting better, reconstruction efforts are getting better, business is getting better.