Letter to the Editor: Local tornado recovery efforts benefit local economy

March 24, 2022 | 12:02 am

Updated March 23, 2022 | 2:55 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Seventy-seven of our neighbors lost their lives last December when an EF4 tornado turned trees to twigs, blasted apart buildings, and even overturned train cars across a wide stretch of Western Kentucky. What you saw on television did not match the reality of devastation on the ground.

In the days that followed, it became clear that we would need significant help to restore our community. If you’re like me or any Kentuckian, you pride yourself on being self-reliant. But this disaster was a challenge too big to face alone. We needed help, and we needed it quickly.

One of the first and smartest things our local leaders did after the storm was to contract with a national emergency logistics and disaster response company called AshBritt. AshBritt specializes in assisting communities that have faced catastrophic disasters, by planning and providing turnkey emergency services to include debris removal while simultaneously ensuring to hire as many local businesses and individuals as quickly as possible to assist with the cleanup.

I came to understand how being properly prepared for such events can help restart and lead to the recovery of our regional economy. Local subcontractors — like my company Wolf Quality Construction — were quickly activated for the recovery operation. Through the decisive leadership of our County Officials and their rapid actions to implement plans and operations, allowed me and my company to participate in standing our (my) community back up — getting the lights back on, food distributed, displaced citizens a roof over their head, and commencement of major debris removal operations.

Within less than 72 hours after AshBritt began its response activities, 27 crews with 54 specialty trucks were clearing roads and removing debris from our neighborhoods. Once the debris was loaded into trucks, it was hauled to locally owned and operated landfills and burn sites. Further into the recovery, a Kentucky-based tree-removal crew was added to remove damaged and hazardous trees. At the peak of operations, over 40 local citizens were employed and participating in debris removal activities.

So far, over 350,000 cubic yards of debris and 1,500 hazardous trees have been loaded, hauled, and disposed of. That’s enough debris to fill 45 Goodyear blimps or 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The massive response operation continues to this day, ahead of schedule.

Faced with such a monumental, overwhelming crisis, and a catastrophe in which I never could have imagined happening right here in my hometown, I now have a grasp of the meaning of preparedness. There was no pre-positioned debris removal contract in place, there was no debris removal plan and I saw firsthand how our leadership partnered with the right company to help us put those pieces together.

Hopefully, we never find Hopkins County and Dawson Springs impacted by such an event ever again, but the lessons learned have resulted in a pre-positioned disaster debris contract now in place and continuing preparedness efforts evolving every day. This is proof that something good can always come out of something bad.

We’re fortunate that AshBritt turned out to be so knowledgeable and professional – and so intent on hiring local, small, and minority-owned subcontractors who could help our neighbors, our communities, and our economy get back on track. As I reflect on the collective strength of our community, with supply trucks rolling in, utility operations ongoing, and houses being rebuilt a true sense of recovery is being realized. I am a proud Kentuckian and am proud to be part of the team helping to make us whole again.

Written by
Mike Donaldson with Wolf Quality Construction, LLC. 

March 24, 2022 | 12:02 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like