Just minutes after the March 1 tornado blew through Thomson, city work crews were out in force to begin the cleanup efforts. Officials said the crews - whose work has been ongoing since the storm - were glad to put in the extra time.
"It's been a challenge to them, but they felt like they were helping the community," said Thomson Public Works Director Peter Ruddick. "A lot of them personally know the people that were affected. That's important. And I'm real proud of the way they've responded and the hard work that they've done."
The tornado hit town about 8:15 p.m., and by 8:30 Mr. Ruddick said he and several others were out working on clearing debris from streets. The quick response got an excellent review from Thomson's new City Administrator Don Powers.
"They were on the scene immediately, from the police department to the water department to streets and sanitation to gas," Mr. Powers said. "...To me it was miraculous how some of these neighborhoods got cleaned up so fast. The city employees worked well with private folks, and it's just a big community effort."
In addition to debris clearing, uprooted trees took water and gas lines with them, necessitating representatives from each of those departments to come out in the rain and fix the problems. But as residents continue to cleanup their own property, the work of the streets and sanitation crews hasn't stopped.
Mr. Ruddick said crews spent each of the last two Saturdays chipping in on the cleanup effort. Also, during the week they continue to haul residents' storm debris - both tree limbs and building material - and dispose of it properly.
Officials asked residents to leave storm debris near the street, and crews will pick it up. Since vegetation and building material have to be disposed of differently, residents are asked to sort the debris into separate piles.
Vegetation debris - trees and limbs - will be burned, now that the Environmental Protection Division has approved that disposal method. Mr. Ruddick said crews are taking debris from damaged structures to the McDuffie County transfer station at no charge. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency is reimbursing the county for the cost.
Anyone inside the city limits of Thomson with questions about debris removal is urged to call city hall at 706-597-1781.