Fort Bragg cleans up in tornado aftermath
April 22, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The sounds of metal scraping pavement and chainsaws buzzing through wood filled the air Monday morning at Simmons Army Airfield, the Material Maintenance Department building and two warehouses at the Knox Street warehouse complex. Fort Bragg's Directorate of Public Works had already started cleaning up in the aftermath of tornadoes that hit the area, Saturday.
"This skirted our southern boundary (of Fort Bragg) and luckily it hit buildings with no one in them instead of housing," said Christine Hull, DPW Operations and Maintenance Division chief, who was surveying the warehouses along with colleague Jim Cook.
Metal siding, insulation and tree limbs were strewn all over the parking lot. Soldiers from the 307th Engineer Battalion were assisting with cleanup. Sgt. Eric Agyemang, 307th Eng. Bn., said the engineers help DPW whenever they are called.
"We are pushing the (building) debris to the side so we can make way for people to come in and fix this."
DPW workers put up a perimeter fence around the damaged buildings for safety, added Hull.
When the storm hit, there were already DPW workers on Fort Bragg, said Hull. "Within an hour, we had equipment operators on the ground. We were fortunate that we had people here. Otherwise we would have been off-post trying to get on post," she said.
Rick Akers, DPW Roads and Equipment Branch supervisor was out getting something to eat for his workers when he noticed the sky turned dark and stormy. After the rainstorm, he saw some of the damage from the tornado.
"The roads were pretty bad. I called DPW immediately," he said.
"We began making an assessment. We don't want to move anything until we figure out power line issues," said Hull.
Electricity was turned off in the areas that were damaged because of downed power lines. Forestry, Storm Water and Ground branches as well as local utilities came out to clear away debris and restore power. Areas of Fort Bragg were without power for nearly 24 hours.
The agencies' help has made Simmons AAF operational again.
"We've been out here for two days clearing the runway. We've hauled off four, 40-yard rolloffs and still have that much debris left that needs to leave," said Hull.
DPW plans for situations such as this.
"This is lot like an ice storm because it ends up being tree damage and structural damage. These are not people's houses. It's stuff, and stuff can be replaced. Not people's bedrooms and homes, that's what breaks your heart, we were very lucky," she said. Hull's house was damaged by a tornado when she was a child. "I have a deep respect for storms."