Clean-up is brisk; National Guard arrives to help
Nearly 100 troops from the Indiana Army National Guard arrived in Marengo yesterday morning to assist with security and clearing debris as clean-up efforts continued in the wake of an F3 tornado that ravaged the town Sunday afternoon.
Crawford County officials declared a local disaster emergency Sunday evening, and Gov. Joe Kernan was here Monday to survey damage and reaffirm an emergency situation for much of the state, including Crawford County. Declaration of an emergency disaster is the first step required for seeking assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Steve Schulz, a State Emergency Management Agency representative from Indianapolis, said the guardsmen brought heavy machinery, including dump trucks and loaders. They’re helping residents and volunteers remove thousands of trees and electrical lines downed by the storm. The top priority, he said, is clearing roads and restoring electrical and phone service.
Schulz said clearing debris is vital so homes can be reached by ambulances or fire vehicles if necessary. Damaged buildings and structures will not be addressed until all trees are cleared. Schulz estimated the initial tree clearing could be done in two or three more days.
‘We’ve got enough equipment and people here that we can get the debris issue taken care of,’ he added.
Barbara Middleton, customer relations manager for Cinergy/PSI’s Corydon-Salem District, said 1,660 customers in the Marengo area were without electricity Sunday afternoon. Marengo-Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Phil Jones said Old Town Marengo had electricity as of Tuesday morning; however, residents in the southern section of town continued to be without power.
Middleton said Cinergy expects to have electricity restored for all customers by late tonight.
Hundreds of linemen and supervisors have been working around the clock in Marengo to resolve the situation. Cinergy plans to rebuild the electrical system in the area rather than repair it. Rebuilding the system will include setting 60 to 100 poles, restringing wire and installing transformers.
Schulz said electricity was restored to the sewage treatment plant late Monday. Verizon crews have been working non-stop to restore telephone service.
In addition to the death of Robert Laswell, four people had minor injuries caused by the severe weather and two volunteers had minor injuries that came from clearing debris, Schulz said.
Four teams of SEMA officials and local authorities made preliminary surveys of residential and commercial damage Monday. They determined that 257 homes were damaged by the storm. Thirty-two homes were destroyed; 43 sustained major damage; 70 had minor damage, and 40 had trace amounts of damage. Twenty-nine business buildings were damaged, said Crawford County Emergency Services Director Ralph Seacat.
Seacat stressed that the numbers are preliminary and another count would be completed when all the clearing is completed, according to SEMA and FEMA guidelines.
‘A sequence of events has to happen, and it (the count) will happen after that,’ Seacat added.
Tuesday morning, hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement and emergency management personnel worked at the command center at the MLTVFD headquarters, which is also serving as a hub for a mobile Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services Center.
Gerald Forney, Salvation Army Director of Disaster Services for Indiana, said his organization was receiving donations of food, beverages, tools and other supplies and feeding victims and volunteers.
‘We’re feeding anybody that comes in,’ Forney said. ‘Yesterday, we served about 350 meals per hour beginning at 7:30 a.m.’
The Salvation Army arrived about 4 p.m., Sunday and will be there to assist people until services are restored and most of the debris is cleared.
Forney said great progress was made Monday, and insurance people are already coming to town to look at buildings.
Marengo Town Council President David Mauck said residents are encouraged to drag limbs and brush out of their yards to where the guardsman can get to them. An area has been designated for dumping of shredded limbs and trees.
Crawford County Solid Waste Management District Director Tina Bowman said about 20 dumpsters will be put out in town beginning today for collection of debris. No hazardous materials or trees or brush are to be put into the dumpsters because those items will be disposed of separately.
‘We’re going to locate them (dumpsters) where the most damage is,’ Bowman said.
The Marengo Recycling Center will reopen today and stay open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., fast time. The center will accept tires, batteries, appliances, hazardous waste and chemicals. Any questions about dumpster collection can be directed to Bowman at 1-812-338-2728.
S.R. 66 remained closed to through traffic Tuesday afternoon. Police redirected vehicles at the intersection with S.R. 64 on the north end of town and at the railroad crossing on the south. Residents and family members were allowed to pass through, although only those with a purpose are being admitted. Several streets continue to be closed.
The Crawford County Commissioners and Council met in an emergency joint session Tuesday morning and voted to appropriate funds to rehire additional highway department personnel to help relieve the strain from the disaster and also earmarked additional money for Marengo to use for disaster relief and clean up procedures.
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Cracker Barrel restaurant in Corydon will be donating 100 meals to help feed Marengo residents displaced by the storm. The meals will be served at Crawford County High School tonight. The American Red Cross asked Cracker Barrel for assistance, general manager Rick Wilcher said.
‘We have a lot employees who live there, and a lot of people from there come here to eat, so we figure we should take care of them,’ Wilcher said.