Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District install a 23-foot-tall concrete shaft enclosure weighing approximately 120,000 pounds as part of the guard wall at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 2023.

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Tornado recovery efforts continue in western Kentucky

Louisville District
Published Jan. 12, 2022
Updated: Jan. 12, 2022

On Dec. 10-11, 2021, history-making long-track tornadoes hit western Kentucky and caused widespread devastation to the area, especially to the City of Mayfield. Since then, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District has been on the ground supporting the disaster response. 
USACE works under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support state and local governments in responding to major disasters. Under the direction of FEMA, the district has been working in partnership with state and local agencies to help Mayfield and Graves County get back on their feet. 
The Louisville District has received eight total mission assignments from FEMA in western Kentucky, which included performing debris assessments in 16 counties declared under federal emergency declarations, providing technical assistance and technical monitoring of debris removal operations in surrounding counties, and most notably, a request for direct federal assistance for debris removal in Graves County, which suffered the most destruction.
“We activated our Emergency Operations Center on Dec. 11 and began deploying teams to necessary areas as quickly as possible,” said Robert Burick, Louisville District Emergency Operations Manager. The district mobilized subject matter experts to perform assessments of debris, infrastructure, and critical public facilities. 
Nearby in Greenville, Kentucky, more than 100 personnel from USACE Pittsburgh District and the 249th Engineer Battalion Prime Power Team and contractors were on the ground staging generators for use as part of the Temporary Power Mission. 61 generators were ready for installation, if requested by the State and FEMA.
After the Temporary Power Mission concluded, the task to remove debris from the hardest hit areas in Graves County remained. The district received a mission assignment from FEMA to begin debris removal and disposal there on Dec 21, 2021. 
“Operations are running smoothly and we’re making steady progress,” said George Minges, Louisville District Emergency Management Chief.
As of mid-February, more than 300,000 cubic yards have been removed. 
“Our goal is to manage the debris in a safe manner using the most efficient and cost-effective methods possible,” Minges said. “Public safety and the safety of our team and contracted personnel is our number one priority.”
The process itself is straight forward. Property owners are asked to sort debris and move it to the curb for pickup by USACE-contracted personnel with self-loading bucket trucks. 
“We pick-up debris that is along the public right of way, so anything within 15 feet of the curb that our trucks can reach, we’ll haul off,” Minges said.
The debris is then transported to the West Kentucky Landfill where crews track the type and quantity of debris being unloaded. Construction debris, such as bricks and drywall head to the landfill while vegetative debris is placed in an adjacent field for incineration. 
Incineration is a typical method used to safely reduce a large volume of vegetative debris left after natural disasters, Minges said. “It’s an effective method that provides additional capacity for us to bring in more vegetative debris.”
As part of the debris removal mission, the Louisville District is also removing leaning trees, hanging tree limbs and stumps from the right of way in Graves County. 
Currently, more than 30 personnel are deployed in support of the recovery efforts. Kendall Johnson, Operations Division Safety and Occupational Health Specialist and Debris Mission Safety Officer, has been with the Louisville District for approximately three months and jumped at the opportunity to help local communities close to his home.
“I want to help as many people as I can,” Johnson said. “I told my own kids, some kids do not have a home anymore, and I can't replace all those things, but I can at least help get the debris out of the way and maybe they can start the healing process.”
In addition to Louisville District employees, personnel from the Kansas City, Baltimore, Tulsa, Mobile, Huntsville, Nashville and Vicksburg districts have also answered the call to help.
Mitch Roberts, project manager and Debris Planning and Response team member with the Kansas City District, is working alongside the Louisville District Debris Planning and Response Team to support the recovery efforts. The Kansas City district established a debris team in spring 2021, and Roberts says the mission in Mayfield is preparing their team for future events.
“Louisville District was gracious enough to allow us to shadow their mission, so we are as prepared as possible when we get our own mission,” Roberts said. “I volunteered for the Kansas City PRT to help those recover from disasters. It’s a good feeling to help cleanup and to help the community get back on their feet after this disaster.”

Chick Lock

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