Going Above and Beyond

Apex responds to Hurricane Harvey.

Before the rain had even stopped, Mark Stover was on the phone to his colleague Dru Steubing. The governor had declared an anticipatory state of disaster for 30 counties across Texas—Stover’s home of 10 years—and the full reality of the devastation now being wrought was sinking in.

Stover, Apex’s senior manager of government and regulatory affairs, was serving as the conduit between the company’s headquarters in Charlottesville and its employees on the ground in Texas. Two days earlier, on August 25, Hurricane Harvey had made landfall as a Category 4 storm, the most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in more than a decade, and Apex staffers were scrambling to help however they could. Now Stover and Steubing were coordinating a large delivery of drinking water to some of the hardest-hit areas of the Texas coast, many of which are adjacent to Apex project footprints.

“Rebuilding will take years,” Stover says. “This is a first step toward helping our coastal neighbors.”

After speaking with Stover, Steubing, Apex director of project development, loaded up his personal pickup and trailer with more than three tons of water and started driving. He didn’t stop until he arrived in Gregory, Texas, where he saw the town’s chief of police, Robert Meager, and mayor, Celestino Zambrano, standing outside City Hall. His offer of water was immediately accepted.

“Chief Meager and Mayor Zambrano were extremely grateful for the much-needed water and said the Red Cross and other disaster-relief organizations were focusing on the more intensely hit areas,” says Steubing. “They had a need and we had the means.”

Destruction in the town of Refugio
Destruction in the town of Refugio (Photos: Patrick Curran)

Steubing was joined that day by his colleagues Jack Zeckman, a construction representative, and Patrick Curran, a mechanical inspector. Over the next week, the three men would deliver ice, cleaning supplies, diapers, and many other essential items to the people of Gregory and Refugio, another hard-hit area in need of assistance.

“It was very rewarding to be able to help the victims of this terrible disaster,” says Zeckman. “My heart goes out to all the people who have lost so much.”

In a four-day span, Hurricane Harvey brought record rainfall and catastrophic flooding to the eastern coast of Texas. The flooding damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted nearly 20,000 rescues. But Apex staff weren’t only quick to react once the storm arrived; they had been preparing for days for the worst.

While the hurricane was still intensifying over the Caribbean Sea, Apex’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) was rolled out at the operating Cameron Wind facility in Rio Hondo and at Chapman Ranch Wind, under construction near Corpus Christi. Led by Manager of Health and Safety John Boyle, Apex personnel carried out the EAP to ensure that both sites were prepared for the storm and that employees and contractors were evacuated out of harm’s way.

“The Cameron team did a phenomenal job ensuring the safety of personnel at the site and executing Apex’s EAP,” says John Boyle. “The construction team, led by Greg Karney, utilized the EAP to ensure a safe evacuation of personnel and the strategic shutdown of the Chapman Ranch project.”

Apex employees Jack Zeckman and Patrick Curran with a delivery of supplies in Gregory, Texas.
Apex employees Jack Zeckman and Patrick Curran with a delivery of supplies in Gregory, Texas.

During the storm, all site control of Cameron was managed in real time by Apex’s Remote Operations Control Center (ROCC) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following a site assessment by Apex staff, the Cameron team was given the all-clear on August 26 to resume day-to-day activity; it would take the crew at Chapman Ranch a few more days to get back up and running.

“This was truly a collaborative team response,” says Andrea Miller, vice president of asset management. “I am extremely proud of how our team addressed this emergency.”

The team’s response extended well beyond on-the-ground efforts in Texas, and an overwhelming outpouring of help came from Apexers across the country. While the ROCC crew kept their eyes on the wind farms weathering the storm, their colleagues down the hall found another way to contribute to the efforts.

As of mid-September, Apex employees had raised nearly $5,000 through a GoFundMe campaign. This fund will support employee-led relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. In addition, Apex is partnering with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and more than a dozen wind energy industry partners to donate $1 million to support repairs and rebuilding efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. And more than three dozen Apex team members have volunteered to head down to Texas should more help be needed on the ground in the near future.

“Although we’re not a disaster relief agency, our team members took it upon themselves to reach out to affected communities and offer support where it was needed,” says Mark Goodwin, president and CEO. “Thank you to all the Apex employees that have and continue to contribute to the relief efforts. We are lucky to be part of such a compassionate and committed team.”