In 2008 Galveston, Texas felt the wrath of Hurricane Ike, the largest hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic basin and the third-most destructive hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States. Ike made final landfall on Sept. 13 as a Category 2 hurricane, with a Category 5 equivalent storm surge and hurricane-force winds extending 120 miles from center.
Directly in its path sat Galveston Bookshop, a popular used bookstore. The two-story building held thousands of rare and hard-to-find books that were all severely damaged by the storm. A wave of mud washed through the entire store, leaving the first floor covered in a foot of debris. The moisture quickly led to the second floor becoming riddled with mold.
“At first we thought the entire store and our inventory would be gone forever,” Sharan Zwick, owner of Galveston Bookshop, said. “After the initial shock of seeing the store seemingly in ruins, it was hard to fathom that much of what we saw was salvageable. I’m sorry now that we waited as long as we did to start the clean up.”
911 Restoration, Inc. did not receive the call until two weeks after the damage had occurred. By then the standing water and mud had created a cesspool of germs and disease. Crews from the company’s Los Angeles headquarters, as well as Orange County, Dallas and Houston, were dispatched to bring the store back to its original state.
“This job had many obstacles, ranging from the number of days the water sat before we got there, to the overwhelming degree of mud that was inside the store, to the importance in saving as many of the books as possible. We found ways to work around all of these things,” Idan Shpizear, 911 Restoration president and project manager, said.
After the initial consultation with Bookshop owners and a visual inspection of the property, a multi-pronged plan was implemented. The first job was to begin mitigating additional damage to the building and salvaging as much of the store’s inventory as possible. The contents of the store (books, racks, etc.) were removed from the building by crews outfitted in full hazardous material gear, including PVC boots, Tyvek suits and full-face respirators with organic filters.
It took the crew a total of 5 days to empty out the first floor. Thousands of books as well as heavy utility shelves were submerged in mud, and in some areas were still floating in contaminated water. The crew had to go in one person at a time to create a path for others to enter. By the end of the second day a crew of four was able to bag up all of the books on the first floor and haul them away. The shelving, mud, water and debris were removed. While the restoration team worked on the first floor, Zwick and two of her employees worked upstairs salvaging as many of the books as they could, wiping each down and carefully packed them into more than 150 boxes. The boxes were packed into four trucks and transported to a storage facility in Houston.
Once the inventory was safely removed and transferred to storage, all the carpets and wood siding was removed. With the facility completely empty, restoration crews pressure-washed the walls, ceilings, and floors using a Honda GC 190 series unit with disinfectant.
Soon after, the drying process began. Particular attention was focused on the air conditioning system to prevent the potential spread of any toxic mold. Phoenix CAM series air movers were brought in to help facility evaporation. The store had no power; the team had to use two commercial generators to properly run the drying equipment. They brought in nine Phoenix 200MAX dehumidifiers, each of which has the capacity to remove 16-30 gallons of water a day. The site was monitored twice daily to ensure that the moisture levels were dropping and drying was progressing as expected, and that the equipment was operating properly.
“The most difficult part of the job was actually three parts,” Shpizear said. “One, we had no electricity and had to use generators to do our work. Two, there was a city mandate that everyone had to evacuate the premises by 5 p.m. nightly; this added more work time to the restoration. And three, it was a two-hour commute each way to get in and out of the city every day.”
The entire job was completed in 14 days. Despite numerous power outages and the use of backup generators, Galveston Bookshop could begin the re-decorating process so they could re-open to the public (note: they re-opened after 60 days, and no problems have been reported since the cleanup.)
“The store looked like a disaster area, and everyone knows that water and books do not go together well,” shop owner Zwick said. “We couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.”