Southaven, MS - On Wednesday, April 27, just after 8:00 p.m. ET, an EF-4 tornado hit Ringgold, GA. Working in North Carolina when the tornado touched down, Tad Agoglia, founder of First Response Team of America, and his crew packed up immediately and arrived on the scene within hours. Months later, the cleanup effort continues.
With the help of hundreds of volunteers, donations and specialized equipment, the First Response Team has worked alongside municipal crews in Ringgold to remove thousands of yards of storm debris from power lines, the roadways and the cemetery. And because many homeowners' insurance policy do not cover the cost of cleanup, Agoglia's crews have also helped homeowners move debris from their lots to the roadside for pick-up, free of charge.
"It is our commitment to save lives and restore hope. We were determined to get right in the middle of what was going on, simply because it was the right thing to do," said Agoglia. "First Response Team is a non-profit organization and is able to assist our neighbors in need thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers."
Terex was one of several equipment manufacturers who donated time and equipment to aid Agoglia's crews with the cleanup efforts. Terex provided a PT-100G compact track loader equipped with a grapple bucket attachment for First Response Team to use for more than two months. The PT-100G was selected because it has a 99.9-hp engine and a 4,000-lb. operating capacity, the power and performance the First Response Team needed to easily and quickly remove storm debris.
"Using the Terex PT-100G, we could clear a whole home site within hours," said Agoglia. "We helped more than 70 families by removing storm debris and clearing their properties so rebuilding could begin."
On the ground for almost 50 miles, with sustaining winds between 175-190 mph, the powerful tornado left a one-third to one-half mile wide path of devastation in its wake. With the roads blocked by debris, one of the first challenges when the First Response Team arrived was getting to those in need. Another immediate challenge was to clear debris off power lines so repair crews could restore power to the area. And, the local cemetery needed to be cleaned up so the dead could be buried.
"I have never seen anything like it," said Terex Product Manager Jamie Wright. "The tornado only lasted about five minutes, and in that time it destroyed hundreds of homes, without even siding or shingles left on some sites. We had worked with First Response before, donating the use of two compact track loaders and a utility vehicle to help with the Gulf oil spill clean up, so Terex was eager and willing to help again."
Because Ringgold is located in a valley, the First Response Team had to work in very hilly terrain. Cleanup efforts were further hampered by rain, leaving the ground very soft and extremely muddy. Compact track loaders are designed to work in these types of conditions, said Wright. The PT-100G features patented Posi-Track suspended undercarriage technology with 18" wide rubber tracks, giving the unit exceptional exceptional flotation, traction and versatility so it could work on virtually any material and in any ground condition it encountered in tornado cleanup efforts.
Also, the PT-100G has a very low center of gravity, exceptional stability and ground clearance, improving productivity when working on the side hills and uneven terrain in Ringgold. It’s two-speed hydrostatic drive system combined with it’s load sensing high-flow auxiliary hydraulics, the PT-100G quickly moved storm debris, like fallen trees, boats, appliances, siding and concrete blocks quickly from home sites to the road.
"The residents in Ringgold may not have known who Terex was before the tornado struck," says Agoglia, "but they saw the Terex machine show up day after day, helping them overcoming the devastation in their lives. They came to rely on and trust in the brand. Together, Terex and First Response gave people hope and helped them feel encouraged again. That’s what we were there for."