TYMCO Assists with West, Texas Clean Up

Most people that travel along I-35 in Texas know the town of West because of the delicious kolaches and other baked goods made at the Czech Stop—an essential stop along the primary north/south interstate in Texas.

But after the fertilizer plant exploded on April 17, West became national news. The explosion that severely damaged homes and schools, leaving hundreds homeless and killing 15 people, was recorded by the U.S. Geological Society as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake and could be felt as far away as the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area.

Timeline

Around 8 p.m., the explosion rocked the small community, located just 19 miles north of Waco. A fire had started approximately 20 minutes prior to the explosion and word spread. According to the Dallas Morning News, the fire burned for at least 22 minutes and “led to two explosions of ammonium nitrate” which led to an estimated $100 million in damage.

“We found out quickly from local news networks,” says Tom Rokas, inside sales for TYMCO. “My brother lives in Ennis, about 30 minutes north of the blast and he heard it. The wind was quite strong from the south that day and I think that’s why most of the people south fared better and also didn’t hear it as well.”

No employees from TYMCO were injured, though some lost friends and extended family. “We have seven employees that live in West and many that live within a 5-mile radius,” says Rokas. “So, several of our employees responded after the explosion to help out, not just those that live in the town. There are so many stories that have come to light. Several guys worked all night and then came into work the next morning. Employees who are certified emergency medical services (EMS) professionals also responded and some just helped evacuate nursing homes or helped at the community center.”

The desire to lend a helping hand runs deep in Texas. Because of that desire, existing ties and proximity to the community, it was natural for TYMCO to respond as a company. “The Young family has its roots in the West community,” says Rokas. “We hold our annual Christmas party there in one of the halls and have swept for them after events, parades and WestFest, a cultural festival that celebrates Czech heritage.”

Rebuilding a Community

While state and federal officials conduct their investigation, the people of West began sifting through the debris of homes and businesses trying to piece their lives, and livelihoods, back together.

Because of the extensive damage caused by the explosion, West needed more than one sweeper. “Kenneth, Gary and Clayton Young attended meetings for several days to get a better understanding of the damage in order to propose an effective and efficient street clean-up program,” says Rokas. “For damage identification purposes, three zones were established: zone one was the furthest circumference, zone two was the next one closer in, then zone three was the site of the blast. We had to wait until the authorities gave us permission to start clean-up in each zone.”

The difficulty in the clean up was due to the type of structures that were damaged. “We had a lot of roofing material and nails that were thrown around the city. So, we used magnets attached to the front of two of our sweepers, the TYMCO 435 and the TYMCO 500x, to help pick up nails and other metal to help protect the tires. In addition to the sweeper drivers, we had guys walking alongside to clear objects as needed.” In all, about 14 TYCMO personnel assisted with the clean up.

According to local sources, the blast cut a 10 foot deep crater that was 90 feet wide spreading dirt far and wide. As crews continue to clear the debris of the homes, the need to sweep continues. TYMCO is committed to stay for as long as needed to help the community rebuild.

“West is going to be fine,” says Rokas. “It’s a strong community.”

For more information on TYMCO Sweepers, please visit www.tymco.com.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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