When Hurricane Harvey was at its peak on September 1, 2017, one-third of Houston was underwater.
When Hurricane Harvey was at its peak on September 1, 2017, one-third of Houston was underwater.

The pump industry can never be accused of being a glamourous one. Nevertheless individuals are often called on to perform vital and sometimes dramatic tasks in the midst of crisis and disaster – turning those participants into ‘unsung heroes’.

This is the first of four examples of some industry professionals who answered the call above and beyond their everyday workload — risking their own personal safety to help others in the midst of crisis, disaster, or other unforeseen events.

Hurricane Harvey recovery

The Houston, Texas metro area is the fourth largest city in the United States with 6.6 million residents. At more than 600 square miles, it is as big as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia combined. When Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, hit Texas on August 25, 2017, it caused more than $180 billion in damage and affected more than 13 million people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, killing more than 82 people.

Harvey made landfall three separate times in six days. At its peak on September 1, 2017, one-third of Houston was underwater. Flooding forced 39,000 people out of their homes after two feet of rain fell in the first 24 hours. The massive storm damaged more than 203,000 homes, completely destroying 12,700 of them. More than 738,000 people registered for assistance with the Emergency Management Agency.

16-to 18-hour days

As soon as the storm hit on August 25, Global Pump operating engineer Jose Soverano went to work. He worked 16-to 18-hour days nonstop until the end of October, working through weekends, holidays, and family events. “In some cases, Jose would get a call after he went home at night just to return to the site to troubleshoot problems that had arisen after he left,” said Global Pump president Gino Mersino. “It wasn’t until the first of November that he started taking Sundays off until the job finished at the end of November.”

Soverano was in charge of a team of 12 men who were pumping out parking garages and basements of buildings that had flooded in downtown Houston after the hurricane. 

“Jose and his crew worked in adverse conditions trying to get the people and the City of Houston back to some kind of normalcy as quickly as possible,” Mersino said. “There would be days that he would be working up to his waist in water in dark basements and garages under street level due to there being no power from the storm. Jose also carried 100- to 150-pound pumps and hundreds of feet of hose and electrical cords down flights of stairs to get the structures pumped out.”

Alligator in the garage

Other than electric submersible pumps, he also set-up generators, portable diesel pumps and light towers. “Not only did the long, nonstop days take its toll, the hot muggy Houston summer was in full swing,” Mersino said. “There were also many rodents, rabbits, coyotes, and even one alligator that had been washed into the underground garages due to the storm water. Those aren’t your typical obstacles to have to overcome.” 

It took three months to undo what took Mother Nature a few days to destroy. “But at the end of it, with Jose’s unselfish dedication and willingness, he helped many people to get back to their normal way of living,” Mersino said.