MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

May 28, 2013

Debris from Moore twister would create mile-high pile

MOORE (AP) — Before residents of Moore can rebuild, they’ll have to deal with the debris from the deadly tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City suburb: crushed wood, mangled siding and battered belongings that could make a pile reaching more than a mile into the sky.

The splintered remains’ first stop is a landfill where items will be sorted, then recycled or burned. Bricks, for instance, will go to charity projects such as Habitat for Humanity; wood, paper and clothing will be incinerated.

“I could be sad about it, but it’s not going to make anything come back. It’s just a house. It’s just stuff. We have each other,” Jessie Childs said as bulldozer and backhoe operators reduced her house near the Plaza Towers Elementary School to a 10-foot pile of rubble.

The school was destroyed in the top-of-the scale EF5 tornado that carved a 17-mile path of destruction on May 20. In all, 24 people were killed, including seven children in the school.

With each load of debris, Moore moves another step closer to recovering from the storm that damaged or destroyed 4,000 homes and businesses. Against a cacophony of snapping lumber, crunching metal and the beep-beep of bulldozers in reverse, Clayton Powell sorted through the listing remains of his Moore home.

“You’re sifting through rubble piles trying to find that one photo, memories you can’t restore,” Powell said. “I’m sure there are a few things I haven’t even thought of and won’t miss.”

Presidential approval of a major disaster declaration typically covers 75 percent of the cost for communities to remove debris. In Moore’s case, President Barack Obama approved even more assistance. Under a pilot program, the federal government will pay 85 percent of debris removal costs for the first 30 days and 80 percent for the next 60. The expectation is that quicker debris removal speeds up the overall recovery.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation brought in 400 of its workers and 250 pieces of equipment, including dump trucks and front-end loaders, to help with the process, said Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.

As residents pick through the remains of their homes for the few surviving personal treasures, they’ve developed a way for crews to know when it’s OK to take stuff away. “If it’s out on the curb, anybody can come out and get it,” said Charlie Baker of Blanchard, watching a bulldozer raze his daughter’s house and push it to the street.

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