By Tyler Roush
For the Opelika
When speaking of first responders, one rarely is talking about the county highway department. But that is exactly what Lee County’s Highway Department became in the immediate aftermath of the March 3 tornadoes.
County foremen and crews quickly arrived to the heavily affected areas and worked well into the night to clear roadways of downed trees and debris in order to create access points for EMT’s and others that were working to save lives.
Hardee reflected on the inexplicable nature of the natural disasters and suffering in Beauregard.
“I mean, there are things you see like that that are amazing, phenomenal, tragic and horrific that you don’t understand,” Hardee said. “And when you see it that close to your home… That could easily have been my children as it was their children, and that pulls on you.”
After walking through the torn-down neighborhoods and trees, Hardee had no explanation for the damage that was done.
“You drive through it, again and again, there are things you can’t explain,” Hardee said. “There [are] homes that are completely obliterated standing next to a house that doesn’t have a shingle missing from its roof.”
Now more than six weeks into relief efforts, Hardee said that he is “very proud” of local and national responses and cleaning efforts.
“You do see the best of people, and the people coming out, they’re not looking for personal reimbursement,” Hardee said. “They’re not looking for ‘I’m going to send you a bill for my time here.’ They’re not doing that. They are here to help. They realize that it could be [their] house and [they] could need this help one day.”
Hardee also recognized the efforts of his Assistant Engineer Patrick Harvill.
“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to be out of Lee County when this storm hit. Patrick was kind enough to call and let me know it had, and for me to stay where I was and tend to what I needed to do,” Hardee said at a March 25 Lee County Commission meeting. “I can’t tell ya’ll what that meant to me with what I was going through. And to have that young man tell me that, the worst disaster to ever hit Lee County during my (17-year) tenure … it meant a lot and I wanted to share that personally.”
Hardee urges for locals to move additional debris, which currently sits on private property outside of the county’s jurisdiction, safely toward pickup locations.
These are open, flat and public surfaces that don’t block drainage or interfere with fire hydrants. There must also be space for trucks to come by and safely load the debris without interrupting traffic.
The highway department cleared more than 10,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris with county equipment in the first week of relief efforts and with the assistance of the storm debris removal contractor, KDF Enterprises, LLC, more than 150,000 cubic yards of debris has been collected to date.
They have concluded the first pass of the areas and will complete a second and third pass to clear the final “15 to 20 percent” of debris. The second pass will begin on April 23, while a date for the final pass will be determined on April 29.
This break will offer homeowners additional time to move debris to the county right-of-ways for pickup.