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Next, Evanson dialed in for a conference call with CEO Tom Oreck, who told his executives what most of them already knew: The company was going to evacuate.

Evanson drove to Home Depot to buy plywood and spent the rest of the day boarding up his house and calling the data center to check on the backup progress. That same night, Tom Oreck flew his private plane with his family and the backup tapes to Houston.

To keep the business alive, a dedicated crew of executives and staff had to surmount huge obstacles. Prologue: The Forecast When Michael Evanson left his office at Oreck Corp. 26, he didn't know if he would be coming back to work on Monday.

Late Friday the forecast changed: Katrina might hit the city.

"We always assumed one or the other facility would survive. We never thought about office space, housing needs. We had to attend to our employees' personal needs so they could focus on business.

Other sections of the levee gave way as well; and before long, 80% of the city was underwater, deeper than 20 feet in some neighborhoods.

"I've never seen anything like it," says Tom Oreck.

"The level of destruction was mind-numbing." Oreck's company, of course, had a disaster recovery plan.

the next day to discuss what to do if Katrina continued to threaten New Orleans. on Saturday morning, Evanson monitored the storm on TV and the Internet: Katrina was now a Category 3 hurricane -- and it was headed straight for New Orleans.

Evanson called Pat Eiermann, the company's AS/400 administrator, and told him to notify IBM that Oreck was going into emergency mode and would shut down its systems that day and switch its data operations to a Big Blue facility.

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