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Livingston Parish, Louisiana (CNN) The catastrophic flood devastating Louisiana is now the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy four years ago, the Red Cross said. "Thousands of people in Louisiana have lost everything they own and need our help now," said Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross' vice president of disaster services operations and logistics. "This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million -- a number which may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation."6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week. The calamity struck quickly and ferociously. In one part of Livingston Parish, more than 31 inches of rain fell in 15 hours.”
On August 18, 2016 US Restoration (USR), a licensed Louisiana specialty restoration contractor owned by Wayne Catalano of Mandeville, LA was selected for the recovery of the renowned Runnels School in Baton Rouge. USR was referred because of our business and personal relationships extending from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to the Gulf States and across the country. Wayne’s family’s owned business (since 1979) has long time affiliations with baseball. Father and son coached level 2A baseball and Elite Travel Showcase team for the last 20 plus years. Project Coordinator Chad Catalano, a second-generation baseball coach, received a call from his network of friends regarding the Runnel’s School flooding. US Restoration responded through their contacts who lined up a phone call to the President of the Board and the Corporation Dr. Runnels of Runnels School. Runnel’s was established as a preschool in 1965 by Dr. L.K. Runnels and his late wife, Patricia.
The first classes were held in the family's home near the South gates of LSU. With the opening of Runnels, a fresh perspective in early learning and child development was introduced to the Baton Rouge community. Unlike traditional preschools and nursery schools of that era, the Runnels program offered instruction in reading to very young children, which was a disputed educational concept. Today, of course, it is a standard early learning practice.
In addition to quality instruction in reading and other academic areas, the Runnels program featured small classes, an individualized approach to education, a nurturing, home-like environment, a caring and dedicated faculty and staff, and a school culture that valued kindness, acceptance, responsibility, creativity and fun. These values still form the heart of “The Runnels Experience.”
Enrollment increased swiftly and soon the Runnels Preschool required two larger locations: a house on Goodwood Avenue and another on Lee Drive. During the 1970s, elementary grades were added to the Runnels program. To accommodate the new classes, the Jefferson Hwy. campus was acquired. In 1982, the 32-acre S. Harrell’s Ferry Rd. campus was purchased, and the elementary school was moved to that location. The following year, the junior and senior high school was added. Now, grades K-12 are housed on the main campus on S. Harrell’s Ferry Rd. and the Jefferson Hwy. campus is a dedicated preschool.
It is this modern campus at S. Harrell’s Ferry Rd. that sustained the wrath of the rain resulting in extensive flooding to the school buildings.
After several hours of conversation with Dr. Runnels the Runnels executives decided it was best to go to loss site. USR and Runnels teams met then proceeded to the school which in and of itself proved treacherous since water was still 4’ high in the streets – Using Chad’s lifted Truck we drove Dr. Runnels, Head of School Mackay and Assistant Head of School Conchetta to the S. Harrell’s Ferry site. Once there we were able to do a preliminary walkthrough. Water was still approx. 2” in buildings with exception of the Theater which had 4’ of water throughout. Entire school had been effected with a minimum of 2 ½ feet of water based on confirmed of water lines on drywall as well as high level marks drywall and glass doors and windows.
USR’s work began with a review of the site and assessments of all 18 buildings on the grounds. Combined square footage of all buildings was only 75,000 sf but navigating continuing rains, high heat & humidity alone were daunting. All spaces were filled with flood waterborne contaminants and many damaged contents. Immediate reservation of large rental commercial drying equipment and generators was key to getting the job moving in the right direction. Initial work included removal of the wood gym floor that had buckled in order to make the gym a clean room for salvageable school contents and a suitable staging location for USR supplies and equipment. Stabilizing the buildings with DX commercial equipment to prevent mold growth to both contents and walls above the 4’ drywall cut confirmed need throughout the school.
Remediation and demo was completed in 3 weeks using up to 90 crew members. All non-salvageable contents below 3’ were bagged and discarded items above the 3’ lower was bagged and labeled of the rooms they were removed. All these items were placed in a sectioned off area in the Gym which were hygiene cleaned and stored in a designated clean area. All damaged computers including monitors and other electronics were inventoried and labeled by room then placed in a special area to be final inventoried and properly disposed of by school IT department. Electronics above the 4” level were stored in a special climate controlled and secure location in the Gym.
The Elementary & High School book rooms sustained the same level of water intrusion as the other buildings – all books below 4’ were discarded those above 4’ were crated and stored in the gym room.
Structural hygiene cleaning was performed on all open wall cavities, foam spray caulking was applied to gaps of the base plates and exterior walls – Mold resistant encapsulation was applied to all exterior walls. – Please refer to the attached day by day report and photos during for additional remediation details. Upon acceptable clearance level testing per each building we facilitated drywall replacement and finishing operations to put buildings back on line in short order so the school could begin to get back to normal. Use of our 3rd party Industrial Hygienist took over 125 samples throughout completed areas of the school and all have received excellent acceptable levels for public occupancy. The process, engineering & climate controls along with the use of specialty equipment ensured successful one pass clearance testing.
Reconstruction efforts included replacement of flood cut drywall at 4ft was done to each building upon clearance testing and done in a systemic manner allowing for preparation finish painting and trim work to be affixed. Floor finishes and final post construction cleaning with subsequent content replacement to each area allowed for school officials to organize order and plan for school to being. Final site cleaning and pressure washing of the outside areas of buildings, parking lot, side walk and playgrounds was done to ensure cleanliness.
Wayne, the work USR did was excellent, and we are honored for you to use our school as a story for a job well done! Reading this your narrative of the flood stirred up many of the emotions that I felt the first days after the flood. I remember how relieved I was to hear your comforting words when we first drove onto campus. I recall you saying, ‘Darlin, I promise you we can make this better.’ You have kept that promise and far exceeded our expectations.” - Marcia Mackay, Head of School
Runnels Newsletter: "It's been an honor and privilege to work with a contractor of such integrity, skill and determination, who has given so generously of his time and resources to help our school. Throughout the remediation experience, Mr. Catalano has provided creative solutions to our unique problems and produced exceptional results that will benefit generations of Runnels students to come."