Debris clean-up plan in Baxter Springs is released - KOAM TV 7

Debris clean-up plan in Baxter Springs is released

There's a new plan for some debris removal in Baxter Springs.  But the bulk of waste leftover from the tornado will have to stay, for now.

Clean-up is still very much underway in Baxter Springs.  Officials and residents say they are still numb from this disaster.  But they are pushing forward with debris removal.

"It's devastating.  It's heartbreaking," says tornado survivor Dawn Goerke.

Goerke was with her four biological children and two foster babies in a living room during the tornado.  Much of the room's roof was sucked off by the tornado, and walls were pushed inward.

"We working with them (her children) and having them talk about it.  But also trying to balance the talking about it with the healing process of moving on," says Goerke.

160 homes in Baxter Springs were damaged; 75 homes significantly damaged or destroyed.

Countless pieces of former treasures are now garbage.  Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says both he and other officials are overwhelmed, but, "Overwhelmed in a good way."

Groves says eager volunteers are cleaning up debris, inside and outside homes.  A new city-wide debris pick-up plan is in place.  But for now, only debris from inside homes will be picked up at the curb; debris like computers and appliances.

There's no plan yet for picking up construction materials, like damaged roofs, cabinets, and walls.

"That's where we're at right now, is trying to figure out what resources are needed to get that construction debris our of the area, where we can take it, and what resources are needed to facilitate the removal of that debris," says Groves.

Emergency funding from the federal or state government has yet to be given.

"While being financially mindful, our focus is taking care of our residents' needs," says Groves.

They are needs that including physically getting rid of a tragic past.

"It's going to be a new normal," says Goerke.

County officials say whether or not FEMA sends financial assistance to Baxter Springs depends on the uninsured  property damage that's submitted to the government agency.  

Officials say part of the delay for city-wide debris clean-up was shutting off about 91 gas leaks throughout the city right after the tornado.  Workers also had to secure live power lines.

CORRECTION: We initially reported there were 91 gas leaks throughout the city.  The Kansas Gas Service says there was one gas leak, but 91 units were shut off.
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