Through the winter, spring and summer of 2015, the crew at North Columbia Quarry was humming along on pace for a record year.
There had been innovative equipment purchases and upgrades, active participation with local schools and police departments and little trouble maintaining a work site that served as a model for safety, operational excellence and environmental stewardship.
On Oct. 4, that work was almost entirely washed away – literally – by more than 22 inches of rain.
The storm battered the city of Columbia, South Carolina, swelling the Broad River beyond its banks. That night, the flood waters cut a path over land, sending more than 4 billion gallons into the quarry’s pit.
If the people of the city knew Martin Marietta as a cooperative community partner before, they hadn’t seen anything yet.
In the two days after the historic flood, as the city was reeling with many other businesses closed, North Columbia Quarry was open and shipping stone to quell flooding on the Columbia Canal that provides drinking water to more than 130,000 people.
In the days that followed, as the city began to slowly recover, the challenges for the quarry were only just beginning. The crew had mastered their work environment before, but suddenly, the landscape was alien. Mining rock was not an option. It was time to clean up.
“The first thing we did was get the team together,” said Plant Manager Daniel Flores said. “Everything was different, but we still had to keep to our Martin Marietta way. Whatever we needed the guys to do, they did and they did it safely.”
The flood and resulting cleanup forced the site to cease production through the last quarter of 2015. In those same months, the river would empty into the quarry two more times. Still the North Columbia team was able to essentially meet its projections for the year; Flores noted this fact as a testament to the dedication, talent and early success of his people.
In May 2016, just eight months after one of Columbia’s worst storms in a century, the quarry crew returned to its monthly production goals despite having access to only part of its pit.
With regard to this year’s Diamond Awards, the flood has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it may have kept the team out of the top spot this year, but the fact that the men and women at North Columbia pulled together to safely succeed in the face of enormous adversity is a source of pride for many of the workers.
Rick Jeffcoat, a truck driver with 16 years of experience, was one of several who said they were honored to be part of a Diamond Award team that has overcome so much.
“It was very difficult to come into work and see that your pit was gone,” he said while standing on a top ledge that was inundated months earlier. “All you can do is channel your efforts to getting the water out and finding a spot where you can dig again. That’s what you focus on.”