Demand for roofers, repair work soars after Hurricane Ida strikes Louisiana: ‘It’s sunup to sundown’ | Business News

Yusuf Hasan leaned against his truck on Monday and wringed sweat from a red handkerchief during a break from nailing clapboards in a damaged 7th Ward home.

Other men his age might take a day off after a week of working under the sun. Hassan not.

“I’m from Tunica, Mississippi. And in Tunica, Mississippi, you pick cotton all day, no matter what,” said Hasan, 78. “I don’t get tired.”

Labor Day was not a holiday at all for thousands of roofers and contractors who mobilized in the week after Hurricane Ida to repair roofs, clear flooded homes and perform other emergency repairs.

Demand has skyrocketed – thanks to a storm that damaged thousands of them. Skilled tradesmen like Hasan said they get calls non-stop, and it seems like everyone who’s ever hit with a hammer is being pushed to work. Hard-hit parishes like St. John the Baptist Parish are overrun by trucks carrying license plates from out of state.

There is no official count of the number of structures damaged by Ida, which made landfall near Port Fourchon with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. But the US Army Corps of Engineers has already approved 13 parishes for its Operation Blue Roof program, which aims to make homes habitable as quickly as possible.

Many homeowners are not interested in the government. The downpour that hit a wide area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans on Monday underlined the daily danger of further rain and mold damage.



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People cover a roof with tarps on Monday, September 6, 2021, a week after Hurricane Ida swept through the area. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Hasan said his small business, Pyramid Roofing, has received so many calls that he doesn’t bother to pick up the phone. Instead, he prioritizes regular customers.

“I just take care of people who have taken care of me,” he said.

Contractor Isaac Kozell said the requests for help have been “non-stop.” Normally he would take Labor Day off, he said, “but I feel like I don’t have a choice right now. It is from dawn to dusk.”

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With established professionals in short supply, a makeshift army of merchants has sprung into action.

Celestino Bustos specializes in making furniture and cabinets from salvaged wood, but in recent days he has been helping others in his father’s Milneburg neighborhood repair fences and roofs.

“Usually that’s our main thing, furniture, but nobody needs that,” Bustos said as he picked up supplies from the Lowe’s in St. Roch. “I do my best for my neighbors.”

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Meanwhile, many property owners have begun gutting their own homes, having learned that skill from past disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac, and the 2016 floods in the Baton Rouge area.

St. John the Baptist Parish announced Monday that volunteers from the Helping Hands organization will provide free cleanup, house stripping and yard cleaning this weekend. Residents can call (844) 965-1386 for assistance.

That parish has seen an influx of contractors and roofers from other states. Government officials warn residents of the danger of contractor fraud.

“I expect we’re going to get beat up,” said Brad Hassert, compliance director for the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors. “But right now I think everyone is still in shock and recovery mode.”

Hassert advised property owners to verify contractors’ licenses on his agency’s website, lacontractor.organd call insurance companies to make sure the contractor’s insurance is up to date.

Louisiana generally requires a license for any residential project worth more than $7,500, including materials and labor, which most residential tarping work would not include.

Hassert said property owners should typically ask for a contract, not pay upfront or cash, get a receipt and take a photo of a contractor’s license plate in case something goes wrong.



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Yusuf Hasan takes a drink of water during a break from repairing a roof on North Derbigny and Kerlerec streets that was damaged by Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, LA. Monday, September 6, 2021. (Photo by Max Becherer, NOLA.com, The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Lawyer)




Many contractors, roofers and laborers put in hard work in harsh conditions, as evidenced by the busy parking lot at Lowe’s on Labor Day.

Kozell loaded two by four into the back of his 1985 GMC Sierra for an emergency repair in Gretna. The truck doesn’t have a working air conditioner – and neither does his house in Treme for the first few days after the storm. That meant there was no respite from his days exposed to the sun.

“The hardest thing was being out all day and then having no access to ice, no air conditioning,” Kozell said.

Kozell spent the first day after the storm plugging holes in his own roof, and has been helping customers ever since. A day off is a distant mirage for workers like him and Hasan, who predict they’ll be repairing roofs in the coming weeks. Hasan said the rain that hit New Orleans on Monday would only give him a short break.

“Well, fine,” Hasan said. “That means it’s going to be cool.”

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