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Storm aftermath

Storm aftermath

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    Photo: Ram N. Tewari

    High volumes of storm-generated debris must be dealt with so that vehicle traffic and solid waste collection can return to normal.

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    Photo: Ram N. Tewari

    Temporary debris management sites helped solid waste crews in Broward County, Fla., dispatch debris after Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina.

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    Photo: Todd Anderson/Black Star

    Stumps and branches from storm-ravaged trees need to be disposed of; many public works departments engage outside contractors to help with the effort after a severe event.

When a city's collection schedule is affected by weather, such as a windstorm or tornado conditions, it helps to have the various agencies' roles in cleanup efforts well-defined and written down. St. Paul has a list of specific procedures that guide its various responsible departments during debris removal efforts. For example, the city's parks and recreation department is charged with tackling debris on park property and assisting with removal of damaged trees in the right of way.

The public works department's debris removal duties include conducting an overall assessment of the area, clearing debris from emergency routes, prioritizing cleanup according to risk, and identifying temporary storage sites. The mayor may choose to commit additional city resources to assisting debris clearance and disposal.

HURRICANE ALLEY

Ram N. Tewari, PhD, P.E., DEE, has seen his share of severe storms. His solid waste career spans three decades, and he has spent 5½ years as director of waste and recycling services for the Solid Waste Operations Division (SWOD) in Broward County, Fla.—smack in the middle of Hurricane Alley. He and his staff stand guard, waiting for heavy rains and strong winds when hurricane season arrives every year and make sure that regular collections and debris removal are tackled in an efficient manner.

While the recent storm season was especially devastating thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, stepped-up efforts helped the SWOD get the job done. “Timely service delivery is my top priority,” said Tewari. “We have a number of measures in place. These include an Emergency Preparedness Plan; Continuity of Operations Plan; pre-approved contracts for collection, hauling, temporary debris site management, volume reduction, disposal, monitoring, and data management.”

Tewari said that agencies in hurricane-stricken areas also team up to manage a storm's aftermath; this includes joint-partnership and mutual-aid agreements, conference calls with all stakeholders affected, and team responsiveness.

After severe storms, Tewari's agency often sets up temporary debris management sites to handle the brush, fallen branches, and other material littering streets and roadways. These feature equipment to haul debris in, grind and incinerate material, load calling/monitoring tower, and trucks for haul processed debris back out again.

Public works professionals contribute to a community's health and well-being on a daily basis, and this work is especially important in the face of a disaster. While they may not be wearing firemen's helmets or police badges, their role is equally vital. “On September 11, for example, there were heroic acts by the first responders, but the people going in after them to remove debris and assess infrastructure were public works people,” said Flint. “You're on the front line in a disaster situation.”