Hurricane Irma Recovery on U.S. Highway 1

Hurricane Irma Recovery

Hurricane Irma Recovery on U.S. Highway 1

Debris managers, construction inspectors inspire Florida Keys recovery

On September 11, 2017, a day after Category 4 Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, our Construction Services/Management team pushed through to repair U.S. Highway 1. The drive was less than majestic.  

The combination of 185 mph winds and 20-foot storm surge flooding left the highway littered with vegetation, boats, cars and homes. Behind a convoy of emergency vehicles and heavy construction equipment, the trip took nine and a half hours for our team.  

As the powerful hurricane drew nearer, HDR assembled two teams to meet our Florida Department of Transportation contract requirements. One team addressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency element, which included the storm-related debris. The second team prepared for the Federal Highway Administration component, which included repairing 126 miles of U.S. 1.  

As soon as the storm passed, our Field Services managers made the trip through the Keys and worked with FDOT and contractors on First Push. First Push meant clearing the main roadway of debris for emergency vehicles and first responders. The team impressively wrapped up First Push in one day. Simultaneously, the construction, engineering and inspection team assessed damaged sections and worked on emergency contracts to procure constructors for immediate repairs. 

Our next order of business was a cut and toss task, working six days to further clear the 126-mile highway for residents and services, including delivery drivers, school buses, mail carriers and emergency responders. Once on board, the team members’ mission for FDOT included: collection and right-of-way debris monitoring, debris management site monitoring, and hazardous tree debris monitoring. The result: more than 1.2 million cubic yards of vegetative, mixed construction/household, and earthen debris were handled (removed, reduced and incinerated, where appropriate) in Monroe County. 

The team carefully considered debris reduction and distribution options. In lieu of grinding and hauling select vegetation to a final disposal site, some debris was reduced with air curtain incineration. The team also sent concrete rubble to a local concrete recycling plant, avoiding landfill disposal. 

FDOT had anticipated the need for support in advance of hurricane season, signing the PreEvent Natural Disaster contract with HDR in May 2017. That preparation helped the team manage complexities that included working without electricity or phone/internet service and rationing food for the first two weeks.  

Day-to-day debris management activities included:  

  • Truck certification 
  • Zone mapping/crew deployment 
  • Collection monitoring  
  • Tower monitoring 
  • Data management 
  • Reimbursement consulting services 
  • Automated debris management system usage 

More than 126 miles of debris collection work and 12 debris management sites created numerous safety, health and environmental risks. Our safety department and local safety staff provided continuous coordination with on-site management and supported 7-day-a-week, 15-hour-a-day schedules for project duration. Site managers followed our safety standards to mitigate risks, especially the high-hazard risks of a large debris project. Their work included daily site inspections; comprehensive, site-specific safety plans; and job hazard analysis.  

The focused safety effort resulted in zero recordable, lost-time injuries. Despite the long hours and complexities, the team worked steadily to complete the job.

Hurricane Irma Recovery
Florida Department of Transportation

Florida Keys, FL
United States

126 miles