Landscapers return to work following Hurricane Harvey

Most floodwaters receded throughout Houston, allowing many to return to a normal work schedule.

Many businesses, including landscapers, are back to work in Houston, as floodwaters from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey have subsided.

"Most of the water subsided late last week,” said Jason Mathers, president of Houston-based Monarch Landscape Management. “(But Monarch) returned to work Thursday, Aug. 31, and worked purposefully since Harvey’s departure. My team accepted the challenge and worked through the weekend – including Labor Day – with a goal to catch up on our properties by the end of this week.”

He noted that road closures led to many traffic delays the past two weeks, but he said most major roads are now open as of Sept. 11.

Although floodwaters have receded and road conditions improved, cleanup efforts are still underway at many residential and commercial properties in Houston. The Texas Nursery & Landscape Association has kept busy the last two weeks by connecting with its members in the Houston area to make sure they are OK and checking what resources members need.

“We had just been calling everyone, at least leaving a message or email to see how (our members) are doing,” said Amy Graham, president of TNLA. “Our emphasis has been trying to connect our people with people. We really need to try to make connections (with members) the best we can. When people connect and talk to someone who has gone through this, it makes all the difference in the world in moving forward.”

Graham anticipates the flooding in some parts of Houston could have an impact on the color of plants in landscapes. “The effects of the water and what that will do to trees and landscapes is yet to be determined,” she said.

While Mathers said his home and business property are in good condition, a handful of his employees experienced severe flooding. “We have 13 team members displaced from their apartments of homes. We are supporting our families with financial aid and with donations from the Native Texas Nursery and Weathermatic.”

Many other Houston-based landscapers like Mathers also prepared as best they could, according to TNLA.

“People knew to prepare, so that was good news,” Graham said. “Many of our companies prepared to the degree they could. But we just didn’t know that the hurricane would sit on top (of the city) that long, and some of the aftereffects of the storm could not have been predicted.”

Mathers said having a hurricane recovery plan proved helpful for his business. Monarch developed a hurricane recovery plan in 2008 after Hurricane Ike. “For us, the plan worked. We minimized property damage and had equipment and people staged, ready to go in the event of the storm,” he said. This involved moving equipment to places that were less likely to get flooded before the storm, as well as moving computers and other assets in the office to places they wouldn’t be damaged.

He said he will reassess Monarch’s hurricane recovery plan with team members this week to discuss what worked and what didn’t work. He also advises companies to assess their hurricane recovery plans, or if they don’t have a plan to make one.

“Even if you don’t have a plan in place initially, put a plan in place in hindsight,” Mathers said. “Then, work it out and reassess after an event. Consider what could happen, what equipment you would need and how to protect your business and assets.”