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Posted 12/12/2018

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By Ed Johnson

When it comes to disaster response, one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ top priorities is supporting immediate life-saving and public safety efforts in partnership with FEMA, state and local emergency management officials.

Meeting this priority often includes providing sandbags and other resources to protect vital roadways and critical infrastructure during a flood event.

Following the impact of Hurricane Florence, this priority was met, in part, by rapidly deploying the latest emergency management equipment on-hand in the USACE inventory.

This piece of equipment, known as a hydraulic sandbag filler, made its way here from the USACE Louisville District while the storm was still raging across the region.

“Once called upon to deploy, we literally packed our bags and hit the road with the sandbag filler in tow,” said Louisville District’s Emergency Operations Manager George Minges. “Once we arrived, we began helping produce sandbags around-the-clock at multiple locations.”

Between their work supporting the coastal counties of Horry and Georgetown, Minges’ team filled more than 25,000 bags working hand-in-hand with members of the South Carolina Army National Guard, as well as state, county and municipal personnel.

Under normal conditions the machine can fill up to 500 bags per hour, but during this mission the sandbagging machine crew often exceeded that capacity.

“Our goal was to fill more than 6,000 sandbags for the Georgetown municipality,” said Minges. “We were getting really good numbers there and at one point were filling just under 700 sandbags per hour with the help of our local and state partners.”

Minges went on to say he was happy to a part of this flood mitigation effort and was proud of the work he and his team did to help local municipalities impacted by flooding.

Jud Kneuvean, Kansas District readiness contingency operations chief, deployed to Horry County and echoes that sentiment.

“The hydraulic sandbag filling machine greatly increased our ability to serve the public,” said Kneuvean. “With this capability, we can reduce the need for personnel on the front end, which is the most labor intensive, and focus on getting sandbags to where they are needed as quickly as possible.”

Hurricane Florence