News: Tennessee National Guard Engineers assist in tornado debris removal
Story by Niki Gentry
SPEEDWELL, Tenn. - On the evening of July 27, an unusually strong storm system ravaged areas of Campbell and Claiborne Counties in northeast Tennessee. Significant damage occurred in and surrounding the town of Speedwell, Tenn., where an EF-3 tornado with winds exceeding 140 miles per hour damaged or destroyed several structures along its path. According to the National Weather Service Office in Morristown, Tenn., the tornado lofted wreckage as high as 10,000 feet into the air as it moved through the area. Upon inspection by local and state authorities, the Tennessee Army National Guard was requested by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to provide heavy equipment and personnel to assist in recovery operations beginning on August 3, in the impacted area under Operation Task Force Engineer.
The Tennessee National Guard’s 230th Engineer Battalion, located in Trenton, Tenn., is leading the operation with 16 Soldiers from the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company located in Russellville (Morristown), Tenn., and Jefferson City, Tenn., 10 Soldiers from the 212th Engineer Company with both units located in Paris and Camden, Tenn., six Soldiers from the 913th Horizontal Engineer Company from Union City, Tenn., one Soldier from the 230th Headquarters / Headquarters Company and five Soldiers from the Forward Support Company located in Trenton also participating in the effort.
“Our mission is to clear roads and provide support to civil authorities in response to the natural disasters in Claiborne and Campbell Counties. This is but one of the state missions that we have the honor to conduct to help our fellow Tennesseans and is one of the primary reasons my Soldiers joined the Guard as engineers,” said Capt. Eric Madison, officer in charge, with the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company. During the first week of the mission over 3,400 cubic yards of storm debris have been removed by the Guard and other supporting agencies according to Madison.
“The mission has been a model domestic support to civilian authorities operation,” said Madison. “All of our efforts have been fully integrated with the local civilian authorities and the help of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Forestry and the Tennessee Department of Safety. Additionally, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team of Tennessee provided meals for those supporting the overall mission.”
“The Tennessee National Guard response, along with all the support agencies, has been very efficient. We were very glad they were able to assist and have been instrumental in clearing a debris swath that spans approximately 40 miles,” said Gina Breeding, the Public Information Officer for the Claiborne County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Breeding indicated 30 structures had been damaged with 11 homes and two businesses completely destroyed.
Due to the extensive damage in the region the mission has been extended from a one-week to two-week completion phase with a planned end date of Aug. 14.