Grading and Excavation Contractor Magazine

Editor’s Comments: Out of the Ordinary

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Credit: Arturo Santiago
Imagine you’re one of the contractors hired to clean up the massive debris flows that hit the California cities of Santa Barbara and Montecito last January. When you get to the job site, you’re staring at only a fraction of the approximately 30 square miles of land (according to a Santa Barbara County Incident Report), or about 19,200 acres, that were impacted by the mudslides. The initial estimates of the total amount of mud and debris were around half a million cubic yards of material. But local government officials along with the US Army Corps Of Engineers admit that the situation is so immense, it’s pretty much impossible to calculate exact statistics.

You would also be facing the aftermath of 23 deaths and hundreds of destroyed and damaged homes. I visited a handful of the devastated neighborhoods and I can tell you, seeing it in person gave me a greater appreciation for the scope of the disaster. Months later, workers are still hauling away mud and boulders.

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Maybe you’re one of the contractors hired to help in recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey that hit southern Texas on August 25, 2017 with record rainfall and top wind speeds of 130 miles per hour. 72 fatalities have been attributed to Harvey. According to Houston Public Media, more than 210,700 homes were damaged or destroyed. The county in which Houston is located, Harris County, had an estimated 136,000 damaged homes. The costs of debris removal, police/EMS response, and damage to public property are more than $439 million. Repairs continue to this day, but according to, nearly 1.8 million cubic yards of debris have been removed.

When disasters hit, they show us just how truly capable we are by taxing our abilities to the furthest extremes.

Your typical day might entail dirt moving to refurbish a stretch of highway. You could be a contractor that’s currently clearing land for an expanded parking lot. Or it’s possible your specialty is in smaller jobs like landscaping or excavating holes for in ground pools. But there are also equipment operators who can cut firebreaks in rough terrain with a dozer while battling a wildfire. Don’t forget snow removal, landfill compacting; the list outside of basic dirt moving goes on. And obviously there are also those among you who, because of your skills and capabilities, get the call to be part of the team involved in these monumental clean up and recovery efforts in the aftermath of disasters.

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In this issue we take a look at some of the “not-so-typical” jobs as well as some of the ways heavy equipment is being used. You’ll read about some of the non-traditional uses of backhoes in Lori Lovely’s “Non-traditionally Speaking” along with how dozers are being implemented in firefighting efforts and forestry tasks in Nathan Medcalf’s “Fire to Ice, Forest to Landfill”. Carol Brzozowski’s “In the Face of Adversity”  details the proper use of lubrication in the machines that are exposed to extreme working conditions.

Maybe you’ll get some ideas from our feature stories on how to expand your own customer base or enhance the efficiency of your operational routines. Building highways, paving roads, and shaping the landscape are likely considered to be your ordinary types of projects. But the skills and equipment needed in accomplishing those endeavors can also be used in multiple capacities. Sometimes opportunity knocks when you least expect it, and you might be more ready to take on more unique assignments than you think. What sort of not-your-ordinary projects have you been involved with? Tell me about it by emailing me at [email protected]. GX_bug_web

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