November 4, 2012

Sandy vs. Irene

Where to begin?
I am finding it hard to begin this post.  There is so much to discuss that it is hard to decide where to start.  I told myself once it was certain we were going to be hit by another major storm that I was going to write a brief update every day before I went home, both to keep people informed and as a record for future use.  As it turns out I am 0 for 5.

Sandy vs. Irene
This storm feels very different than Irene, it does not seem as bad at first glance. Although the storm surge was listed as 3' higher than ten months ago, the damage seems less awesome.  Just like last year, many people came down to the club to witness the damage, but this time very few people got out of their cars. I realized yesterday that I was taking fewer photos, probably since they looked just like the ones that are still in my phone. The clubhouse fared better than expected, and thanks to the hard work of Dan Colburn and his staff the exterior shows little evidence that anything happened at all. The new tennis courts will need to be cleaned up before next season, but they will require far less work than last year.  Cross the street and it is a very different story. The water level was at least a foot higher based on the water marks in my office, but the debris lines on the course suggest a greater rise than that.  The impact of this storm may not seem as impressive because we just experienced a similar ordeal a year ago, but also because we were much more prepared.  My staff spent two days before the storm working extremely hard to minimize damage from the storm surge.  We continually asked ourselves "Is that high enough?", as we lifted everything that wasn't bolted to the floor. Every piece of equipment was brought to higher ground out on the golf course or behind the staff apartments.  Everything in the shop was moved up to the lofts or into one of the apartments.  Strategies that we employed last year to save the greens were revisited and evaluated as we developed a plan for the first days following the storm.
All of that hard work paid off, as we suffered little major damage to equipment or supplies.  As we left Sunday afternoon to begin protecting our homes, it was hard to imagine that it was possible that we were going to be faced with the challenge of cleaning up after another major storm.

Recovery - Part II
I was on the course before dawn the day after the storm to begin flushing any areas that had emerged from the flood waters. The water had risen a little higher and flooded areas a little deeper than last year, but the plan was the same.  Wash the salt off the turf and out of the soil as soon as possible, starting with the greens, and then moving to any areas that could be reached as the water receded.  By the end of the first day all four greens and most of the tees that had been submerged had been flushed at least twice. Much of the area was still under water or inaccessible, and we learned last year that turf under salt water suffered the worst damage.
The staff returned to work Wednesday, and immediately began cleaning and restoring our shop. Everything was pressure washed. The walls, the floors, the equipment, and the parking lot.  While the crew worked on the shop, I continued to flush greens, tees, and fairways.
Thursday we headed out on the course to clean the debris that was left from the surge. Work continued on the shop, and we continued to flood salt affected areas.
Friday we sent our mowers out to the rest of the course to cut areas that had not been submerged before trying to mow the mud off of the exposed grass.  It became clear that we were going to have to look deeper into the shop for possible damage.  We decided that we would have to remove the heaters and lower portion of the walls from the office and locker room.  We feared that mold and mildew would grow in the insulation and sheetrock, and felt that the wiring should be examined by an electrician.
Saturday we finally pulled out the chainsaws to clean up the trees that had been damaged by the wind. All day we watched the line crews as they replaced damaged poles and hung new wires along Totoket Road and Club Parkway.
We will not know exactly how much turf was lost to salt water for some time, but the worst areas are already showing signs that lead me to believe we will be buying sod again in the near future.  Thankfully we now know that a permanent solution has been developed and will be implemented, hopefully before the next 100 year storm.

Moving on
It is easy to find the similarities between Irene and Sandy, such as the track of the storm and the fact that it hit during an abnormal high tide.  Hopefully the impact of the storm on the club will be significantly less, but the damage to the golf course will be very different.  We will not have the luxury of reseeding damaged areas due to the fact that winter is only weeks away, not months. I have been assured that sod is readily available this year, but I will have to winterize the irrigation system before the turf is established.
I am sure that once we have completed the cleanup and recovery from the second 100-year storm in as many years, we will all look back and realize that the impact was not as significant for a few reasons.  We were better prepared and took the steps necessary to minimize the damage and facilitate the cleanup.   The hard work of the staff and the  teamwork across departments made the cleanup process much more efficient.   Finally, the fact that we survived a similar ordeal a year ago, and were able to come back as strong as ever gives us the strength and confidence to know that we can handle this, or any other challenge that is thrown our way.