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Team Rubicon arrives to help demolish homes in South Delta

It will be years before areas of the South Delta — such as Eagle Lake — find any sense of normalcy following the devastating, months-long flood that ravaged the area for much of the year.

But thanks to an international organization, based on the core beliefs of those who have served in the U.S. military, some property owners are getting a hand in starting over.

Beginning Wednesday, crews with Team Rubicon started demolishing 29 homes in the South Delta area that were severely damaged in the historic Yazoo Backwater Flood that began in February and finally receded in August.

“These are homes that are beyond repair and that pose a risk if they were to remain,” Warren County Emergency Management Agency director John Elfer told members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Monday. “Team Rubicon is on the ground and is demolishing these homes for free.”

Elfer said members of Team Rubicon helped residents in August clean out homes, but these crews are scheduled to work two weeks demolishing damaged homes.

Homeowners had homes that needed to be demolished. A vast majority didn’t have the means to do it or weren’t insured for the flooding and these homes would’ve just sat for years,” Rubicon’s Michael Martel said as his crew worked to demolish a home on Yazoo Lane in the Eagle Lake community Wednesday. “So it gave us an opportunity to come in and provide our services for free and help these homeowners get a fresh start on some of this property.”

Not only is the work being provided for free, but the equipment being used by the teams is also being provided at no cost. Case Construction Equipment, a sponsor of Team Rubicon, has donated the needed equipment.

“Case Construction Equipment is a really great sponsor. If it wasn’t for them a lot of this wouldn’t happen, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to come in and provide the service for free,” Martel said. “They donate the equipment and United Rentals facilitates it.”

Team members are currently being housed at the fire station on Lee Road, with meals for the team being donated by the community. And the team is expected to grow over the coming days.

Right now we’ve got 16 people on the ground and next week we’ll ramp up until about 25-30, we have some more equipment coming in later this week and into next week,” Martel said. 

While the work and equipment is free, Warren County is being asked to handle hauling off the debris from the home sites. Crews with Team Rubicon are not handling removal, but are staging all debris on the county rights of way for easier pickup.

During Monday’s meeting, supervisors decided to seek bids on hauling services to provide roll-offs in the areas of the demolitions. These roll-offs, which hold the same about of debris as five-to-six dump trucks, will give county crews the chance to pick up and place multiple loads of debris in the roll-offs without having to make multiple trips from the Eagle Lake community to the county landfill.

When the county was under a federal emergency declaration, there would not have been a need to seek bids on the service, but that declaration expired in October.

Team Rubicon is an international non-profit disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams, free of charge, to communities affected by disasters.

Team Rubicon currently maintains a roster of 65,000-plus volunteers able to deploy throughout the United States and world.

Vicksburg Post editor Tim Reeves contributed to this report.

About Courtland Wells

Courtland Wells is a staff photographer at The Vicksburg Post. He is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in Photojournalism. Following graduation, he started at The Vicksburg Post in the fall of 2016. Courtland has won numerous awards through the Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors and the Mississippi Press Association. His work has also been featured in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as other national publications. Courtland is a member of the Vicksburg Young Professionals.

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