Polk County tornado debris removal will be long term

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Updated: May. 2, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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ONALASKA, Texas (KTRE) - Volunteers and work crews have been in Onalaska helping with clean up and repairs from the tornado that touched down just over a week ago.

Soon, the next step will be to remove all of the debris.

The county planned to begin debris removal last Thursday, but before removal can begin, all of the debris must be assessed.

“The state team will come in with our federal partners as well,” said Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy. “They will take a look at the damage. They will do damage assessments, debris assessments.”

Once assessments are complete, teams can start coming in. The city and county have a contract with crews ready to pick up the debris. They will also get some help from the Texas Department of Transportation.

“So what will happen is TxDOT will come through first and remove a portion of it. Make a run through it, and then the debris contractor will come through and do the same thing,” Murphy said.

In order to dump debris, there must be a TCEQ- (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) approved location. The county has some previously approved that were leftover from Hurricane Harvey.

“So a lot of this debris will not be going to the landfill until it is mulched or chipped or whatever. Some of it will go directly to the landfill - the man-made products,” Murphy said. “The vegetated products will not go directly to the landfill.”

A county-wide burn ban remains in place to alleviate the need for crews to respond to areas farther away.

“If we did not implement a county-wide burn ban, if for some reason we had a fire on the south end of Polk County, then we would have to pull resources from the Onalaska area and the Seven Oaks area and Bull Springs area to fight a fire somewhere else,” Murphy said.

The judge said the cleanup will be a long process. She hopes the partnership with TxDOT, the city, and fire departments will help create an efficient plan to move forward.

“We’ve done everything we can on the city side and the county-side to inform the residents that we’re trying to get as much assistance as possible and move forward as quickly as we can,” Murphy said.

There are still ways to help on the ground and people can reach out to the Polk County Center of Hope to learn more.

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