How drilling contractors fared in the wake of Hurricane Isabel and more.

Apparently, these conditions are considered "moist."
That drilling contractors are a strong and hearty lot hardly constitutes breaking news -- it's a general matter-of-fact-type assumption. So it came as no surprise whatsoever that the Eastern seaboard-area drilling contractors we spoke with in Hurricane Isabel's wake seemed rather unflustered about the whole affair.

The most common problem endured in the already-saturated region was flooding; we all saw the pictures of people rowing boats down their town's streets past eye-level traffic signs. So what was the typical drilling contractor description of the flood conditions? "Things were a bit wet." (If you're looking for hyperbole, drilling contractors usually aren't going to be a whole lot of help. Much like their counterparts in Minnesota who describe outdoor temperatures between 10 degrees and 15 degrees below zero as "kinda chilly," these folks probably wouldn't get too terribly concerned about a flood unless they saw a guy named Noah dragging animals onto an ark.)

Jan Bordewyk of Curtis Drilling in Richmond, Va., tells us her firm was fortunate enough to have escaped any physical damage from Isabel and that when things cleared, it enjoyed a palpable spike in business. "We did just fine. Business was kind of dead there for the week or so that a lot of people still were without electricity, but we had a lot of pump work and so on afterward. People were running their pumps off generators and doing damge to their pumps," she explains. "We were very fortunate; we're on the northwest side of town and we weren't hit nearly as hard as those over on the east side. We're pretty much back to normal."

National Driller's associate editor, the venerable Lisa Schroeder, had the opportunity to speak with Todd Vander Pol of Matthews Well & Pump in Glen Allen, Va., who recounted his company's experience. "We lost power about 6 p.m. on Thursday and we didn't get it back for nine and a half days," he says. "But we started the generator about 6:30, and we had neighbors over for a taco party and we watched the wind blow. We lost four or five trees on our property, with no other building damage.

"We have since been quite busy replacing well lids and well curbings that were struck by large trees, working with folks and their generators to get the systems up and running. We have had some wells that were flooded and contaminated because the hurricane gave us five inches of rain. And it was just a day or two later we had a thunderstorm that gave us another three inches, which actually caused more flooding than the hurricane because it came so quickly. That's actually what we're doing today -- on an old well that was cut off below the ground surface, we're raising it up above the ground surface to prevent contamination in the future. In most cases, you just chlorinate heavily and re-circulate the water into the top of the well to ensure that the chlorine is distributed throughout the depth of the well."

Vander Pol told Schroeder about an incident with one of Matthews' service trucks. "We hooked a power line," he explains. "We carry a hydraulic spool on the top of our truck for flexible poly pipe. There was a power line hanging low -- the technician did not see it -- and he was going 40, 45 mph. He said it almost stopped the truck before the line broke, and when it broke, it had pulled the spool from the receiving apparatus on the boom and the spool then shot forward on the truck, and landed balanced on the boom and the pipe rack at the front of the truck. The hydraulic hoses were the only things that kept it from ending up on the cab or farther out on the road. We set off to the side and got our other service truck with another boom on it and we lifted the spool up and then raised the boom on the damaged truck until it was hanging in its normal position. And actually there wasn't a whole lot of damage, just some bent metal on the spool and on the boom that we could fix quite easily. We never took the pump hoist out of service. So it was just one of those things you don't expect -- to have power lines at eight or nine feet."

Vander Pol says a big problem was damage from fallen trees. "Just a couple miles down the road to Ashland, we saw one large oak tree that hit eight cars -- eight cars in a row," he recalls. "The first car was crushed within 16 inches of the ground, and then the end car still had all the glass broken and the fenders busted up. There's a two and a half mile road that we live on, and the power lines were broken in three spots. So it was very unusual to that many trees falling on the power lines.

Asked how people were coping in general, Vander Pol tells us, "A lot of folks were going to friends and neighbors for showers and for fresh water. We live in a suburban area but most people were still pretty able to cope. They would get water from swimming pools or ponds to flush toilets. There are a lot of generators, so people were sharing water. We had people coming over to our shop, taking showers. We ran power and water to our neighbors -- things of that nature. Actually, everybody coped very well probably for the first five or six days. And then they just began to get a little frustrated; cold showers were getting to be an old routine. Otherwise, we certainly had it good that we had everything but hot water. We?re still dealing with some of these contamination problems. Actually, I had a call today. Somebody wants me to look at a sinkhole in his backyard, about 20 feet from the well. I don?t think they?re tied together, but obviously that massive amount of rain has loosened up something -- whether it's an old abandoned well, I'm not sure what we'll find."

So things could have been a lot worse; we're happy for that. Regardless of the circumstances, we know how drilling contractors always will react; we're happy for that, too. Also on the bright side, Isabel did bring with it one bit of positive news -- for callinectes sapidus-lovers, anyway. Cut those lemons and melt that butter -- the hurricane brought in so many crabs that prices have plummeted. A whole season's worth already has been harvested and the prospects look quite good for future seasons, as well.

October Do-overs

In last month's "Coming Events" department, the listing for the Empire State Water Well Drillers' annual meeting and trade show was incorrect. The big event takes place Jan. 20-21, 2004, in Rome, N.Y. To register, or for more information, telephone 315-339-8960. In this month's "Coming Events" department, the listing for the Empire State Water Well Drillers' annual meeting and trade show is correct.

In last month's feature article "Submersible Pump Installation Check-list," the pumps in an accompanying photograph identified as Grundfos pumps are, in fact, not Grundfos pumps. You can check out a real honest-to-goodness Grundfos pump system in this issue's "Product Info" section.

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