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High-tech meets hands-on as Moore clears away tornado debris

Some driving huge trucks, others toting iPads make cleanup in Moore work.
BY WILLIAM CRUM wcrum@opubco.com Modified: July 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: July 2, 2013

Dustin Winick chases the weather, and bar codes track his progress.

Winick hauls broken concrete and splintered lumber, shredded baseballs and running shoes — everyday stuff that until May 20 framed thousands of lives.

The truck driver from Farmington, Mo., is among dozens of itinerant workers — some manning dusty truck cabs and others deploying iPads — who congregate after storms such as last month's EF5 tornado to help devastated communities pick up the pieces.

They call it stormin'.

Winick is in Moore this summer driving for Medek Tree Service of Mechanicsville, Va.

Owner Adam Medek's crew is assigned to the west side of Interstate 35 and worked earlier this week in the neighborhood around Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven third-graders were killed.

Winick, a 32-year-old father of four, has been doing disaster relief work 13 years and figures he's been home about a month over the past year.

He said he went to the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy last year and spent four months in Joplin, Mo., after that city's deadly 2011 tornado.

“This one affected me more because of the kids that were involved,” he said.

Working smart

Truckers had hauled 93,116 tons of debris — in 6,678 loads — from Moore over 32 work days as of Monday night. About 50 trucks have been in the damage zones flanking I-35.

Winick calls it was one of the most efficient jobs he's ever been on. Advances in documenting the process mean he spends more time on the road and less time waiting at scales or the landfill.

Up-to-the-minute data on every load — what some call “cradle to grave” documentation — is available in real time to the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which ultimately will pay much of the bill.

Monitors, many hired locally by Executive Recovery Group of Picayune, Miss., collect information on the contents of each load, where and when it was picked up, and by whom. Every load is photographed in the neighborhoods, at the scales and at the landfill or concrete recycling yard.

Bar codes pasted on every truck and trailer are scanned at every stop and must match the job ticket carried by the driver. The system discourages fraud and saves time.

City benefits

Solid documentation protects the city when FEMA audits the cleanup, said Jeremy Cooper, Executive Recovery Group's project manager in Moore.

Cooper, 33, expects his company to be in Moore monitoring the cleanup into August.

“They've been good to work for,” he said. “We want to make sure they're happy when we leave.”

The monitoring system — developed by an associated company, DebrisTech — has been used for cleanup after Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast and on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Isaac, Cooper said. They worked closer to home when a tornado damaged Hattiesburg, Miss.

Executive Recovery Group works closely with Silver Star Construction, a local company that holds the debris removal contract in its role as Moore's public works department.

Debris gathered

Contractors such as Medek working under Silver Star are working through the neighborhoods in Moore, removing debris piled by homeowners at the curbs.

When homeowners give permission, Silver Star's contractors can do the whole job — demolishing what's left of the house, hauling away the debris and grading the lot to prepare for rebuilding.

Notices printed on green paper are evident throughout devastated neighborhoods, on lots where owners still have not begun demolition.

Moore plans to give owners until July 15 — just under two months since the tornado — to make demolition arrangements before moving to condemn properties and sweep them clean of debris.

Federal reimbursement policies favor quick cleanup to aid recovery.

“My job,” said Steve Shawn, Silver Star's president, “is to get the city cleaned up as quickly as I can with the maximum reimbursement.”