Hurricane Harvey

Client: Harris County Flood Control District

Service: Disaster Debris Management


Harris County, Texas

PJE Role

Prime Contractor

Date Completed

January 2018

Project description

Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to strike the US since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, ending the record-length 4,323-day span in which no major hurricanes made landfall in the continental U.S. It was the most intense tropical cyclone to make landfall on the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Charley in 2004, and the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. 
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017 in Texas between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, near Corpus Christie as a Category 4. The following day, Hurricane Harvey moved on to the Houston area where it remained stationary for four days. In the Houston Metropolitan Area, total rainfall hit over 60 inches in some areas, breaking a record for the most rainfall from a single storm in the continental U.S., creating a 1,000-year flood event, damaging over 200,000 homes, displacing approximately 40,000 people, and overwhelming the County’s storm drainage system. A meteorologist with Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) reported that a foot and a half of water covered 70% of the 1,800-square-mile county. 

PJE's Contribution

In response to the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Harvey, HCFCD activated P&J’s pre-positioned contract for disaster debris removal services to clear out debris that was blocking the County’s storm drainage system and relieve flooding by allowing for the proper flow of water out of the City’s flooded areas. By August 27, HCFCD was reporting that all 2,500 miles of canals had overflowed their banks.

P&J had personnel on the ground in Harris County prior to Harvey’s landfall and mobilized additional resources to begin operations in the County within three days of Notice to Proceed despite challenges presented by extensive flooding. Over the course of the project, P&J removed vegetative debris and hazardous trees from approximately 100 miles of storm drainage canals and 13 bayous (including Buffalo Bayou, Cypress Creek, Little Cypress Creek, Willow Creek, and Spring Creek, among others). One hundred forty-four hauling trucks were dedicated to the HCFCD debris management effort. Three Debris Management Sites (DMSs) were utilized to sort and reduce the debris via grinding to mulch prior to final disposal at an approved landfill.

Project Highlights

CY of vegetative debris


hazardous trees


CY of mulch

Challenges & Solutions

This project involved a constant balancing act between water/land-based operations to remove the storm-generated debris because of continuous fluctuations of the water level. When the water level was high the crews were not able to see the blockages that needed to be removed, and when the water level was low enough to remove the blockages there wasn’t enough water to operate water-based equipment. Water level fluctuations were complicated by the need for release of water into the channels to create more freeboard in the reservoirs and alleviate flooding in residential areas

In developing a work plan for removing the storm-related debris, P&J implemented a mixture of hand labor, land-based equipment, and water-based equipment and barges. The priority was to clear the obstructions in the waterways in the safest, most efficient manner possible. This was achieved with skilled saw technicians cutting material into manageable lengths, which was complicated by eroding banks and/or operating in water while managing this task.

During land-based operations, safe accesses on unsafe waterway banks had to be created and the debris was then gathered by mechanical means and loaded into a hauling unit. During water-based operations, loading/gathering equipment was loaded onto and operated from barges that were in the waterway, and then taken to land accesses to be loaded into hauling vehicles. Since the waterway debris could not be extracted by any other means, it was a continuous challenge to maintain a water level in which to safely operate the barges.

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