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How Hurricane Harvey Harmed The Clocks

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

At this moment last year, Hurricane Harvey was over Texas. The storm's rainfall inundated areas from Port Aransas to beyond Houston. The damage was intense, both to lives and property. Houston Public Media's Allison Lee has this look at one part of the recovery, one that's intricate and slow-going.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK CUCKOOING)

ALLISON LEE, BYLINE: Old clocks that tick-tock and chime. Turns out a lot of people flooded by Harvey owned old clocks. And now many of them have ended up at Chappell Jordan Clock Galleries in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK CHIMING)

RALPH POKLUDA: There's always something chiming here. People ask me, do you ever get used to this? I said, I don't even hear it.

LEE: Ralph Pokluda has worked at the shop for 49 years. He says they're still getting what he calls Harvey clocks, and they're currently at a six-month turnaround time. As a native Houstonian, Pokluda says he's seen lots of storms. But he says Harvey was different.

POKLUDA: This time, we quickly became overwhelmed. We ended up taking in not quite 200 grandfather clocks. And we took in wall and mantel clocks, too. So you can imagine a mantel clock sitting on the mantel - that that was inundated...

LEE: He said some of those clocks were some of the few items people were able to save. And they're working longer hours to keep up with demand.

POKLUDA: This is how we get next door. This - watch your step.

LEE: Pokluda brings me to the workshop out back, where workers like Kevin Killian (ph) are winding gears...

(SOUNDBITE OF WINDING GEARS)

LEE: ...And polishing brass.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLISHING BRASS)

KEVIN KILLIAN: Still seeing Harvey clocks...

POKLUDA: Yeah. Is the thrill going and picking up Harvey clocks?

KILLIAN: Yeah. But we're not picking too many of them up anymore...

POKLUDA: Jeff (ph) just picked one up today.

KILLIAN: Oh, he did?

POKLUDA: Yeah.

LEE: The shop's warehouse is packed with 150 broken grandfather clocks. Some will cost thousands to repair. But Pokluda says the businesses they rely on were also affected.

POKLUDA: Dial painters are backlogged. The cabinet-makers are overwhelmed.

LEE: One of the grandfather clocks in for repair came from Jerry Arnold's (ph) home that was flooded with 4 feet of water. He's still living in an apartment today.

JERRY ARNOLD: I mean, everything was so soggy.

LEE: His clock repair will cost around $3,500, about a thousand dollars more than it's worth. But Arnold says, for him, it's not about the money.

ARNOLD: It means a lot just surviving this long. Maybe even if it wasn't a family clock, I would still take care of it because of where it's been, you know? I respect it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK CHIMING)

LEE: Back at the shop, Pokluda says bye to a customer who came in for an estimate.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right...

POKLUDA: Thank you, Ted (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you.

LEE: The customer decided the cost wasn't worth the repair.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Keep those fingers nimble.

POKLUDA: I will.

LEE: Pokluda says he expects to be caught up on their workload by the end of the year. For NPR News, I'm Allison Lee in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.