GREENSBORO — What’s a contractor to do with a 200-foot crane towering over a downtown construction site and a hurricane on the way?
At the site of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, contractors have secured the crane to ensure that it weathers Hurricane Florence safely, said Wes Weaver, senior project manager with Barnhill Contracting Co.
The “crawler” mobile crane weighs 750,000 pounds and is rated to withstand winds of up to 50 mph.
So this week, Barnhill crews “folded” the crane in half by lowering its boom and laying that section on the ground, Weaver said.
That took its height from 200 feet to about 90 feet.
“You just lay it down so don’t have a big, tall latticework of steel up in the breeze,” Weaver said.
In its current position, “Even if we get gusts in the 60- to 70 miles per hour range, that thing is not going to fall over,” Weaver said. “It’s way too heavy for wind to knock it over.”
It’s not the only downtown aerial structure that could have been affected by Hurricane Florence.
On Thursday, Janet Echelman’s massive aerial net sculpture in LeBauer Park was lowered. The iconic sculpture will be returned over the Great Lawn early next week.
At a Wilmington construction project, Barnhill took a different approach with a different type of crane — a tower crane — it had erected there.
That crane was rated to withstand winds up to 110 miles per hour. With the forecast earlier this week calling for a Category 4 hurricane with stronger winds, Barnhill dismantled that crane and left only about 80 feet of the tower section, Weaver said.
In the Raleigh area, where winds aren’t expected to be as strong as Wilmington, other contractors opted to leave tower cranes in place and put them in “weathervane” mode, according to The News & Observer.
That means releasing the brakes on the towering structures to allow them to spin freely in the wind, like a weathervane. A counterweight system within the crane’s towers keeps them from rocking back and forth, The News & Observer said.
At the Tanger Center, the company erecting steel rents the crane from W.O. Grubb Crane Rental in Greensboro.
It has stood on the site bordered by North Elm and East Lindsay streets and Abe Brenner Place.
There, Raleigh-based Barnhill is building the $84.7 million state-of-the-art, 3,000-seat venue set to open in March 2020.
Barnhill has made other preparations for Florence there.
The site already holds pumps that automatically turn on to pump out rainwater, then shut off.
Crews have created mounds of soil to direct water away from buildings under construction.
They also removed the blue Tanger Center banners that hang on the fence around the site.
“The wind can pass through the fence and not tear the fence down,” Weaver said.
Crews secured portable toilets and loose construction material.
“If we were further along and had a lot of finishes that could be damaged by water, I would be a whole lot more nervous,” Weaver said. “If concrete and steel gets wet, it doesn’t matter.”
Weaver admits that the hurricane worries him. But it shouldn’t affect the construction schedule, he said.
Iron workers from Sampson County left Tuesday to prepare for the storm there.
Other crews worked Thursday, but will not today (Friday) or Saturday.
“My biggest concern is making sure all my guys get home and weather the storm and make it back next week,” Weaver said.
Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.