After an EF1 tornado hit the Middle Sound Loop area on May 5, crews contracted by New Hanover County removed 4,238 cubic yards of debris from the neighborhoods hit by the twister.
According to the county’s Director of Environmental Management Joe Suleyman, that’s a total of 170 full residential garbage truck loads full of mostly green debris.
“We saw entire trees that came down,” Suleyman said, noting that many had uprooted or blown over because days of rain leading up to the event had oversaturated the ground and loosened the soil. “We saw big branches and pieces that were six, eight, ten, twelve feet long.”
Cleanup started on May 9, the Monday after the tornado hit, so that residents had a chance to move as much debris as they could to the curb for easier pickup. It ended Wednesday of this week. Part of the reason it took a while for the workers, who ran three collection vehicles at the peak of the removal process and two at other times, to finish is due to the weather.
“During the second week of collection, we had a bad electrical storm that we couldn’t go out in because of the big metal booms on the trucks,” Suleyman said, saying they also got rained out on another day that week.
Crews also had to find the different areas of damage due to the way the tornado moved. Instead of staying on the ground, it touched down and lifted back up several times along its 1.75-mile path, leaving pockets of damage rather than a straight line.
“It was very localized. It was kind of strange,” Suleyman said, saying most of the work they did was in the neighborhoods north and south of the roundabout on Middle Sound Loop Road. “It shows how the tornado came down and picked up along the way. You couldn’t just follow a street and assume that when the debris was gone, that was all the damage in that was there. You had to go find the next spot.”
Suleyman said this process was a good way for county departments and crews to keep their emergency management skills sharp, especially as hurricane season approaches.
“It always helps to keep us from getting rusty, to make sure our lines of communication are open,” said Suleyman, who added that the county hasn’t had to do large scale debris removal since an ice storm hit the area in February 2014. “That kind of coordination reinforces our ability to respond after natural disasters.”