TULSA – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been using and providing communities with sandbags for more than 100 years, but building sandbags is labor-intensive.
As a results of recent flooding in Oklahoma and Texas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided a hydraulic sandbag filling machine, on loan from the Corps’ Kansas District, to help Oklahoma and Texas Communities with the bag-building process.
The hydraulic filler and its two-man crew spent one day in Grove, Oklahoma, and two days in Durant, Texas, before being sent to Wagoner, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management determined Wagoner would be the central sandbag distribution center.
In the first 50 minutes of operation the machine and community volunteers built 500 sandbags.
“We had volunteers come from all over the county,” said Heath Underwood, emergency manager for Wagoner County.
“We had the Coweta football team come in,” added Underwood, “We asked for volunteers and they all just started coming in.”
Those volunteers, said Gary Cain, one of two sandbag machine operators sent from Kansas City to set up the hydraulic filler, are as important as the machine itself.
“You need the volunteers to tie and stack the bags” said Gary Cain, a crane operator with the Kansas City District, who works with the sandbag filling machine during emergency operations. “The more volunteers you have the more you can put the bags out, the easier it is.”
The Wagoner County Emergency Management Office now has 8,000 sandbags. Some will be placed into storage for future use, while the rest will be picked up by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and delivered to sites around the region.
The machine and crew were able to return to Kansas City, June 1.
“It really helped my guys out and relieved the pressure on us. The people came in, pulled together and helped us out,” said Underwood.
In addition to sandbags, the Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed water releases from more than 50 reservoirs in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas during the May rain event.
"We believe we've been able to save lives and infrastructure with our system of reservoirs," said Lt. Col. Daniel Young, Deputy Commander, Tulsa District. "The people who operate, manage and maintain our structures worked long hours to safely guide us through this event."