This year has produced one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record, especially for Louisiana that is preparing for its 8th named storm this year. Neither the city or the world has forgotten the devastation that occurred with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a category 5 storm that caused over 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage. With half of its city below sea level, New Orleans goes into high alert when hurricanes approach and in support of our clients in New Orleans and the surroundings areas, Avenu employees have been standing “shoulder to shoulder” with their communities to provide support in every conceivable way possible. The effort of going over and beyond the call of duty is what many of us would call heroic, but “really it’s just another Tuesday if you’re from Louisiana,” shared Brandi Sanner – Client Success Manager, who is a native of New Orleans. “People from this state have so much heart and soul and just jump in to help without thinking twice. I am so proud to be from Louisiana.”
Here are some recent and past examples of how Avenu has supported local communities across South Louisiana.
Avenu Provides Critical Emergency Response Support to the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans
The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) is responsible for drainage, sewerage treatment, and the purification of drinking water. This is no small feat for a city that has much of its land below sea level. For over 20 years, Avenu has been responsible for SWBNO’s IT Managed Services which is a critical function for New Orleans. Guy Lombard, Project Manager, has been a part of this team from the beginning.
When hurricanes approach New Orleans, SWBNO’s Emergency Response team takes control and runs an Emergency Operation & Command Center with Avenu by its side. Maintaining IT services during a natural disaster is crucial because it provides the operation status of the various mechanical drainage pumps that are strategically placed throughout the city.
During Hurricane Zeta (nearly a category 3 storm) a few weeks ago, members of the Avenu team were sequestered with the Emergency Response team to provide immediate action for any issues that came up and to answer any questions. Guy and many of his team has been part of the SWBNO for more than 20 years. Guy remarked, “I am immensely proud of the relationship we have forged with SWBNO. These events are threatening to the entire city which includes the families and homes of our staff members. Regardless our team is ready to respond when called 24/7 and support our client and city as needed.” What Guy didn’t readily share is that he was on call during Zeta which ripped the roof off of his home.
Thank you to the entire SWBNO Team for going over and beyond the call of duty!
Avenu Called in to Rescue Vital Documents During the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit North America. With winds speeds exceeding 170 mph, Katrina brought 13 inches of rain and storm surge flooding of 25 to 28 feet above sea level. Just days after the storm, the Parish of St. Bernard’s Clerk of Court called the Windward Group (acquired by Avenu in 2019) to come rescue vital documents.
At the time, there were about a dozen Avenu staff who had not evacuated. They were each given body suits and escorted by Military Police to the office where they dug through sludge, mold and oil to pull the documents. Ellen Skaggs, Director of Operations, remembers “With so much going on across the city, Military Police were used for the most serious of circumstances so being escorted while wearing body suits was surreal. What I remember most was being honored at the complete trust that the Parish put into our team at such a vulnerable moment.”
Ellen had the retrieved documents taken by freezer trucks to a subcontractor in Texas to restore the documents. The documents were remediated, but without radiating the documents which was too costly for the Parish, they still contained trace amounts of humidity and mold. Environmental Engineers decided that it was unsafe to bring the documents back to Clerk of Court office because of the contamination risk. Instead, Avenu built a three-story building specifically designed to store these documents. To this day, when the St. Bernard Parish needs a vital record prior to 2005, they call Avenu, and Ellen and her team scan and send the documents as needed.
Ellen – thank you for sharing this amazing story. Kudos to your entire team for serving our clients through thick and thin.
Benny Garrard Helping People Get Back on their Feet
On August 27, 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall in Cameron Parish, LA as strong category 4 hurricane bringing winds up to 150 mph, extreme rainfall, and storm surge. When Benny Garrard, Consultant, learned that the Cameron Clerk of Court (an Avenu client) lost their office, and that all but one employee completely lost their home he jumped into action.
Benny and fellow employees went to Cameron to see how they could help. Our team worked with citizens and other Clerk offices to ensure that everyone had temporary shelter and contributed to the purchase of pre-paid credit cards to help these individuals with their most immediate needs. Benny and the team also helped with the set-up of a temporary office.
Benny & Team – thank you for responding to your community when it was most needed.
Marla Simmons Pitches-In to File Tax Returns for Parish After Storm Hits
Recently, a storm knocked out Louisiana’s LaFourche Parish School Board’s power, and they were unable to use our E-Gov Tax Portal system to file taxes. Marla Simmons, Business Analyst who works out of our Baton Rouge office, provided extra support by personally filing 1,000 tax returns for the Parish so that they would be on-time. The LaFourche Parish School Board was certainly grateful for this support!
Thank you to all of our Louisiana colleagues for jumping in to help your communities and modeling our core values.