Roads Department working hard in storm response

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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The Troup County Roads and Engineering Department has been extremely busy trying to clear the roads and remove debris after the EF-3 tornado that struck Troup County on March 26.

James Emery, director of engineering and development, said the department’s initial response was to clear a path down every road in Troup County.

“We started with higher classification roads, and we worked our way down to local roads and used heavy equipment, like chainsaws, to cut a path through every road that had debris on it, so we could get emergency response teams to every home in Troup County along all of the routes,” Emery said.

In the initial aftermath of last week’s storm and the flooding, Emery said his team worked at 50 different locations to clear at least one lane of traffic. 

“After that, we started on the second phase trying to clear two lanes wide on every road,” Emery said. “The third phase is getting clear zones of the roads cleared, which is an extra width outside of the two travel lanes. None of that activity is debris removal and disposal activity. It’s pushing debris to the left and right of the centerline of the road. The next phase is the debris removal and disposal.”

In the case of severe weather, Emery said debris removal can take weeks. In meantime, he said they are working on setting up vegetative debris staging areas.

“We have now secured agreements with property owners to stage vegetative debris from the road right of way in two areas and got Georgia EPD approval for both. We’ve had some work to do to prepare both of the areas, but we’ve started hauling debris to those areas,” Emery said.  “One of them started last week and the other one will be ready to start receiving, hopefully, today or tomorrow.”

Emery said they have received assistance from the Georgia Forestry Association, Harris County Public Works, the City of Newnan, Coweta County, Spalding County and over the last couple of days help from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Emery said emergency work situations are their first concern over lower-priority work.

“We always have a backlog of work to do but in emergency situations, we prioritize getting emergency work done first ahead of anything that’s non-emergency,” Emery said.

Upon seeing the damage to the community and homes of those impacted by the tornado, Emery said he felt empathy.

“I’ve been doing this kind of work for Troup County for 19 years and have been through many natural disasters, and every time it hurts my heart to see the damage to not just the infrastructure but the private properties. I know that it hurts the people that have been impacted,” Emery said.

For those looking to remove debris from personal property, Emery recommends a few ways.

“The disposal of vegetative waste on private properties is usually handled by burning the waste on the private property or by composting it. If there’s a low area on the property, it’s sometimes good practice to make a compost pile,” Emery said. “Chipping is always an option, but it’s more expensive and the most expensive is to haul it off and to pay to put it into a landfill.”

He said if the waste is construction and demolition waste (C&D waste), it should not be burned, composted or buried on private property. It should be taken or disposed of in a landfill.