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Katrina's Aftermath: "It's never been this hard"

  • <p>Epic's headquarters in Harvey, La., two weeks after Hurricane Katrina.</p>
  • <p>The hurricane snaked under the roof, blowing ceiling tiles into offices and spitting bricks out of an exterior wall.</p>
  • <p>Epic was luckier than many businesses in the New Orleans area. Its building could be repaired, and the company found a contractor quickly.</p>
  • <p>If everything went as planned, construction would take two months. But Epic's return to Harvey hinged on phone service, which could take even longer.</p>
  • <p>Many of the construction workers arrived from Florida, where they had been rebuilding homes and businesses damaged by last year's powerful storms.</p>
  • <p>After returning to Harvey, Epic COO Roger Rodriguez felt cut off from the company, which had relocated to Houston. "We could just as soon be in Nigeria."</p>
  • <p>Even though the staff packed up much of the office before Katrina hit, they couldn't take every file, every blueprint, every picture.</p>
  • <p>Julie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Epic Divers & Marine, in the company's Houston office.</p>
  • <p>Even as she told her employees to report to Houston, six hours from Harvey, Rodriguez worried about the toll it would take.</p>
  • <p>Within days of arriving in Houston, someone attached a sticky note to Rodriguez's make-shift desk that said, "FROM THE PENTHOUSE TO THE OUTHOUSE."</p>
  • <p>Epic found itself in great demand to inspect pipelines possibly damaged by the storm. The challenge was finding available divers and equipment.</p>
  • <p>John Herron, director of diving operations, shared a Houston hotel during the week. On weekends, he and his wife stayed with friends in Baton Rouge.</p>
  • <p>Mike Simoneaux, IT manager, feared for New Orleans as he built a server in Houston. "Your heart's somewhere else, but you have to be practical." </p>
  • <p>All around her, Rodriguez could see the impact of Katrina. Even her dog Jetta was depressed. A vet in Houston prescribed Valium.</p>
  • <p>At a staff meeting in September, Rodriguez assures the staff they would return to Harvey soon -- "if you can just hang on a little longer."</p>
  • <p>A diving applicant waits for a job interview at the Houston office. Epic began recruiting to keep up with business fueled by Katrina.</p>
  • <p>Rodriguez and John Lariviere, director of projects and a former diver. Although Rodriguez has never dived, she's not intimidated by the macho culture.</p>
  • <p>Lariviere spent a week calling to find a supply boat. The storm destroyed countless vessels. "It's never been this hard," he said.</p>
  • <p>Daybreak aboard Gulf Dream, the supply boat hired by Epic.</p>
  • <p>Two weeks after slamming the coast, Katrina continued to disrupt the supply chain. Epic's supply boat waited nine hours for groceries and diving gas.</p>
  • 01 /20

    Epic's headquarters in Harvey, La., two weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

  • 02 /20

    The hurricane snaked under the roof, blowing ceiling tiles into offices and spitting bricks out of an exterior wall.

  • 03 /20

    Epic was luckier than many businesses in the New Orleans area. Its building could be repaired, and the company found a contractor quickly.

  • 04 /20

    If everything went as planned, construction would take two months. But Epic's return to Harvey hinged on phone service, which could take even longer.

  • 05 /20

    Many of the construction workers arrived from Florida, where they had been rebuilding homes and businesses damaged by last year's powerful storms.

  • 06 /20

    After returning to Harvey, Epic COO Roger Rodriguez felt cut off from the company, which had relocated to Houston. "We could just as soon be in Nigeria."

  • 07 /20

    Even though the staff packed up much of the office before Katrina hit, they couldn't take every file, every blueprint, every picture.

  • 08 /20

    Julie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Epic Divers & Marine, in the company's Houston office.

  • 09 /20

    Even as she told her employees to report to Houston, six hours from Harvey, Rodriguez worried about the toll it would take.

  • 10 /20

    Within days of arriving in Houston, someone attached a sticky note to Rodriguez's make-shift desk that said, "FROM THE PENTHOUSE TO THE OUTHOUSE."

  • 11 /20

    Epic found itself in great demand to inspect pipelines possibly damaged by the storm. The challenge was finding available divers and equipment.

  • 12 /20

    John Herron, director of diving operations, shared a Houston hotel during the week. On weekends, he and his wife stayed with friends in Baton Rouge.

  • 13 /20

    Mike Simoneaux, IT manager, feared for New Orleans as he built a server in Houston. "Your heart's somewhere else, but you have to be practical."

  • 14 /20

    All around her, Rodriguez could see the impact of Katrina. Even her dog Jetta was depressed. A vet in Houston prescribed Valium.

  • 15 /20

    At a staff meeting in September, Rodriguez assures the staff they would return to Harvey soon -- "if you can just hang on a little longer."

  • 16 /20

    A diving applicant waits for a job interview at the Houston office. Epic began recruiting to keep up with business fueled by Katrina.

  • 17 /20

    Rodriguez and John Lariviere, director of projects and a former diver. Although Rodriguez has never dived, she's not intimidated by the macho culture.

  • 18 /20

    Lariviere spent a week calling to find a supply boat. The storm destroyed countless vessels. "It's never been this hard," he said.

  • 19 /20

    Daybreak aboard Gulf Dream, the supply boat hired by Epic.

  • 20 /20

    Two weeks after slamming the coast, Katrina continued to disrupt the supply chain. Epic's supply boat waited nine hours for groceries and diving gas.

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