OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin debris removal from affected areas early next week, starting with municipal streets, roads and public property in the 11 counties originally declared eligible for federal disaster assistance as a result of the severe storms and tornadoes of May 3-4. Individuals may also place debris next to the road for pickup, according to Tom Logsdon, the Corps' site manager for the project. "We'll be sending out trucks and crews to clean streets and rights of way up to 15 feet on each side of the street," Logsdon said. He explained that the Corps is prohibited from entering onto private property, "but if people put their debris next to the street we'll haul it away."
The Army Corps of Engineers is one of nearly 30 federal agencies working with Oklahoma to support state and local response and recovery efforts. The overall task is coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with state and local agencies and voluntary organizations. Crews will be working 12-hour shifts during daylight hours. However, with an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris to be disposed of, the job will take several weeks. Specific dates for pickup for each neighborhood will be announced as the work progresses.
Members of the Corps of Engineers and local officials will set up disposal sites for the debris. Environmental impact is a key concern. Depending on the type of debris, it will be ground and taken to landfills, or as a last resort burned under strictly controlled conditions. No open fires will be allowed without prior authorization from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Individuals wishing to apply for a burn permit should call 1-800-522-0206.
Corps safety personnel urge homeowners and volunteers to use extreme caution when handling debris. "Be sure to wear gloves and hard-toe shoes if possible," Bob Vandegrif, safety office chief for the Corps' Tulsa District, advised.