The Gulf Coast has been experiencing an unseasonably wet spring this year, and contractors in the region are dealing with the resulting project delays.
So far this year, New Orleans, Louisiana has had nearly twice as much rain as its year-to-date average. Since January 1, the Crescent City has received nearly 42 inches of precipitation, making this the fifth wettest spring in New Orleans history since data collection began in 1871.
While hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1, southeast Louisiana has already been under a hurricane or tropical storm watch six times so far since the start of 2021. The projects affected so far warrant some preemptive action from contractors who want to protect their business.
Multiple construction projects in the Gulf Coast have been delayed
Several construction projects in the Gulf Coast have hit setbacks because of the rainy weather. The French Quarter Infrastructure Project, a public project in New Orleans involving reconstructing blocks of Bourbon Street, has lost 15 workdays so far due to weather.
Louisiana Department of Transportation officials have pushed back a $28.9 million highway-widening project in Prairieville, Louisiana by three months partly because of the rain, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
The unusual weather has stalled highway projects in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas as well. The rain-related setbacks come just as contractors in the Gulf Coast were beginning to recover from disruptions from a deadly winter storm in February. That storm caused extensive property damage and breaks in supply chains, preventing work on multiple projects, including the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences in New Orleans.
The showery weather shows no signs of stopping: As of May 22, forecasters anticipate that the first named storm of the year, subtropical storm Ana, could bring more rain and even floods to parts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi within a week of reporting.
What to do when bad weather affects your construction schedule
If you’re a contractor dealing with any weather-related work interruptions, it’s important to know what steps you need to take to protect your business.
Document, document, document
If you file a delay claim to get more time for your project, you’ll need to prove the delays in question were caused by unusually severe weather that could not have been reasonably anticipated. Maintain a thorough daily report system that notes which parts of the project have been affected by adverse weather and how.
Read the fine print
Each state has its own take on laws and regulations regarding construction payment documents and liens. Sometimes, it’s as particular as the state’s term for a preliminary notice. Georgia subcontractors use a Notice to Contractor, and contractors in South Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio file a Notice of Furnishing. Pay close attention to the specifics in your state.
Protect your payments
If you haven’t already sent a preliminary notice for each of your projects, now is a great time. When inclement weather disrupts a project, payment issues are a near-guarantee.
A preliminary notice is often essential if you need to file a mechanics liens further down the road. A mechanics lien functions as a payment-protection tool that helps unpaid contractors gain a security interest in the respective property until they receive compensation. In many states, contractors can file mechanics liens only if they filed preliminary notices earlier.
Even if you don’t work in a state that requires suppliers and subcontractors to send preliminary notices, doing so improves communication and provides clarity, especially when nasty weather is disrupting work. As contractors and property owners restructure a project slowed by storms or rain, a preliminary notice provides essential information to get the project back on track.
Assess your storm situation
Different weather conditions can cause different delays and disruptions, from project schedule delays to material shortages.
“Supply chains are going to be out of sync, so delivery times for everything are going to be delayed,” Texas attorney Aaron Cartwright told Levelset. Assess your supplies and how your work could be impacted by such delays.
Prepare for the uglier human behavior that can come with darker weather: “Tools will be stolen, trucks will be stolen, materials will be stolen,” Aaron said.
Make sure you update clients and property owners of possible delays in work and supplies to avoid surprises. Now is a great time to follow that old “under-promise and over-deliver” advice.
Aaron mentions that it's also a good time to be realistic about what kind of work is possible at the moment: “Do not take deposits for which you will not be able to perform work.”