SMITHVILLE — In the tattered shell of the former Piggly Wiggly store that will soon be demolished, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials updated the public Thursday afternoon on the cleanup of debris from the April 27 EF-5 tornado that nearly wiped Smithville off the map.
According to Col. Jeffrey Eckstein of the Corps’ Vicksburg District, about two-thirds of the tornado rubble has been cleaned up thus far. In May the Corps awarded two contracts to Monroe County companies for the debris cleanup — Fowlkes Plumbing of Amory was awarded a contract for $1,153,750 and Hernandez Inc. of Aberdeen was awarded a $378,000 contract. A third contract was awarded in June to Fowlkes Plumbing for additional demolition of about 50 buildings for $780,480.
To date, about 17,000 tons of debris has been removed from Smithville and more than 6,000 tons from other portions of Monroe County that suffered storm damage, primarily in the Wren community.
Col. Eckstein said the Corps is prepared to respond to disasters and has been kept busy in Mississippi with the Monroe County tornadoes, Yazoo tornado and the Mississippi River flooding. “A lot of people are working as a team,” Col. Eckstein said. The Corps has worked hand-in-hand with FEMA and MEMA and the local entities of Smithville and Monroe County. “It will never be the same in Smithville,” he said. “But local people have done a great job of seeing that people can get back and resume their lives.”
Smithville Mayor Gregg Kennedy said the town will forever be grateful for the assistance the Corps has provided. “We couldn’t ask for a better group to be in Smithville than the troops that are here,” he said. “And we couldn’t have done it without the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Monroe County Administrator Sonny Clay said the best thing to happen was for the Corps to accept the mission to help with the Monroe County disaster and to respond so quickly. It was the next morning after the tornado that Monroe County officials through MEMA asked the Corps to help with cleanup operations. He said both contractors are doing a tremendous job with the debris going to the county landfill.
The emergency debris removal is occurring on both residential and commercial properties and city and county rights-of-way with work under way seven days a week, 14 hours a day. The contractors do not go on properties unless owners have signed a right of entry form with FEMA.
The Corps’ contracted debris removal is at no charge to the city or county residents. The debris is being separated into types: vegetation, white goods such as appliances, electrical waste such as televisions, and household hazardous waste such as paint and construction materials.
Anyone who has not yet signed up for debris removal and wishes to do so should go to the Smithville Community Center or to the Wren Volunteer Fire Station. Preferably they should sign up for debris removal prior to June 6. The contracted debris cleanup is expected to be complete by mid-June.
Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal