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Daunting task of debris removal begins in Jopllin

89 year old Don Atteberry is thankful much of his debris has been moved to the curb by volunteers.

June 01, 2011|by Linda Russell | KY3 Reporter

JOPLIN, Mo.-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is teaming up with FEMA to clear the miles and piles of debris.

Wednesday begins the major debris removal phase in Joplin, and officials want citizens and volunteers to separate debris as best they can along the curb in six different categories:  hazardous waste; trees and other brush; appliances; electronics; furniture, carpet and other possessions; and garbage.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has crews walking the streets, helping sort what already lies near the street. 

89 year old Don Atteberry is thankful much of his debris has moved that far.  "Volunteers was all in my yard and the house, on the porch; you couldn't come out on the porch.  They cleaned it all up for me," Atteberry says.

Now, Atteberry can at least sit on his porch, on the front of what's left of his home of fifty years.

"We remodeled everything in that house," Atteberry says.

Part of it is still standing, Don says thanks to the sturdy old construction, and his lovely wife.  "We were married 57 years.  She died three years ago, so she's watching over her family still," says Atteberry.

Atteberry actually had about a dozen of his family members over that afternoon, for Sunday dinner.
"They come over, they visit, I cook for them," says Atteberry.

Some had finished up and gone home.  "They eat all they wanted, and then what's left, I'd send home with them," Atteberry says.

Then came the tornado sirens, but Don figured he'd seen it all.  "Yeah, there's been five or six; I don't know.  We've lost chimneys, we've lost roofing, blown some windows out in the back or stuff like that," Atteberry says.

But it was soon clear that this one came with terrible force.  "When the windows started blowing out, not the windows, but the whole window sill," Atteberry says.


Once the window blew out, Atteberry and his two daughters ran for cover, one under a bed, and he and his other daughter threw themselves on the floor in a corner.

"Terrific noise with it too," Atteberry says.  He and his family members made it through with only scratches, and he's thankful. 

But as the picking up begins, starting over can seem a daunting task.  "All the decisions you have to make, all the papers you have to sign," Atteberry says.

There are some big decisions to be made, especially when you've been here for 50 years, and now begins a very long process of cleaning up all the debris and beginning the process of rebuilding.

Debris removal illustration.

Additional debris removal information from City of Joplin:

The larger, debris-removal efforts are being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its authorized subcontractors.  The Army Corps has been brought in by FEMA at the request of local and state officials to help with the massive debris removal needs in Joplin and surrounding areas.

Initial debris-removal efforts will concentrate on clearing storm debris from public rights-of-way which encompass curbside areas of public streets.  Wherever possible, citizens who are moving debris towards the curbsides are encouraged to sort their debris into six basic categories:  Vegetative (trees, bushes, brush), White Goods such as refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, lawn mowers; Electronics such as computers, telephones, DVDs;  C&D which includes structural pieces, furniture, possessions and carpeting; Hazardous Waste such as oil, batteries, paints, household cleaning supplies and regular, bagged Household Garbage (food, paper, packaging, etc.)

A separate effort to remove storm debris from certain public and private property will begin soon as well. This effort is aimed at properties that sustained catastrophic or extensive damage.  All debris removal will be done under the observation of a trained spotter in the event a recovery is needed.

Owners of these heavily damaged properties will need to sign a Right-of-Entry (ROE) before this specific debris removal can begin. City officials will soon be providing this form and announcing various locations for citizens to pick up and return copies.

City officials note that signing an ROE does not transfer ownership of property.  Rather, this permission allows the Army Corps and its subcontractors to go onto private property and remove debris.  Demolition of storm-damaged homes and businesses will not take place during this operation.

City officials will continue to provide regular debris removal updates in the coming days and weeks.

For additional updates, citizens are encouraged to visit

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