Tornado debris removal complete in Monroe County

By Monroe Journal

SMITHVILLE – “Operation Clean Sweep,” the joint effort of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and FEMA to remove tornado debris that posed an immediate threat to public health and safety in Smithville and adjacent areas of Monroe County, has been completed.

MEMA is paying 10 percent of the cost while FEMA picks up the rest.

FEMA assigned the task to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Private contractors hired by the Corps did the work.

It was two months ago – April 27 – when an EF-5 tornado cut a swath a half-mile wide and three miles long through the northeastern Mississippi community of nearly 900. The tornado killed 17 persons and destroyed much of Smithville. The town hall, police station and post office were leveled and the school was heavily damaged.

“FEMA and the Corps did a wonderful job responding to our needs in Smithville and Monroe County,” Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack said. “Now that the public health threat from debris has been removed, the citizens of Smithville can begin rebuilding their lives.”

More than 26,000 tons of tornado debris were removed. Building materials, vehicles, appliances and other objects were hauled to a landfill. Hazardous materials were disposed of by approved methods. Trees and vegetation that could be burned were hauled to a burn site. At the height of the operation, 50 trucks were involved in the debris removal.

“The Corps was able to hire local contractors, who then hired local sub-contractors, so the debris removal also helped the community begin its economic recovery from the deadly tornado,” said Terry L. Quarles, federal coordinating officer. The Corps was authorized to spend up to $8 million on the project.

Debris removal operations continue in other counties impacted by the April storms. Counties approved for Individual Assistance under the federal disaster declaration will be reimbursed 75 percent of the eligible costs by FEMA for that work.