Newswise — MACOMB, IL — A faculty member and students in the Western Illinois University Emergency Management Program are looking at ways to help farmers address debris management in the aftermath of tornado disasters. According to WIU Emergency Management Program Coordinator Jack Rozdilsky, who is also an assistant professor in Western's health sciences and social work department, farmland areas in northern Illinois continue to be affected by the April 9 EF-4 tornado.

He noted that oftentimes, after a tornado, debris management plans are in place for the cities that are impacted; however, farmers adjacent to cities are often left on their own.

"Tornado debris management on farmland is an issue that needs more attention," Rozdilsky explained. "As a violent tornado tears through a city, much of the debris is lofted into the air, and for many rural locations in Illinois, that debris falls onto adjacent farmland. After both the February 2012 Harrisburg tornado and the November 2013 Washington tornado, farmers' fields next to these cities were covered with debris."

Devin Wombles (Pleasant Hill, IL), a WIU graduate student in health sciences and emergency management, has been working with Rozdilsky to develop recommendations for farmers who are faced with the farmland debris issue. Rozdilsky said their work has resulted in an eight-phase action plan, which will guide farmers in their tornado debris cleanup efforts.

In February, Rozdilsky and Wombles were invited by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center to present, "Addressing the Emergency Management Challenges of Debris Removal from Farmland in the Wake of a Tornado" at the National Tornado Summit in Oklahoma City. (The presentation is available at www.tornadosummit.org/files/Presentations/agenda_BO7_AddressingEmergency.pdf.)

According to Rozdilsky, their work is based on a detailed year-and-a-half study focusing on how the owners of Montgomery Farm, located outside of Washington (IL), coped with their tornado debris problems from 2013-15.

"Our research project provided useful lessons, which may be helpful for other Midwestern farmers who need to deal with tornado debris issues that interrupt their farming operations," Wombles said.

Rozdilsky also noted that a few WIU undergraduate members of the Emergency Management Student Organization (the WIU IESMA chapter) assisted with farmland debris cleanup near Washington during the past year.

"This volunteer work enabled successful planting for the 2015 growing season. This was farmland in 2014 rendered unusable due to tornado debris," he said. "As tornadoes continue to impact rural Illinois locations, there will be circumstances in which farmers will need assistance in coping with tornado debris issues, and this work in our emergency management program at Western can assist with this need."

For more information, contact Rozdilsky at [email protected].

Learn more about Western's emergency management program at www.wiu.edu/coehs/health_sciences/undergraduate_programs/em/index.php.