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Terracon Helps Rebuild Joplin After Devastating Tornado

On May 22, a tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, Mo. The areas impacted included total devastation of St. John’s Hospital, densely populated residential areas, and a portion of a major commercial district. Only five days after the tornado, Terracon was contacted by the civil engineering consultant for a major retail client to provide geotechnical engineering services for the full redesign and rebuild of the store. We were selected to provide these services in part due to our relationship with the consultant and client, our previous geotechnical services for this location, and our local presence.

Joplin was mined heavily for lead and zinc. Based on historical maps of the area and Terracon’s involvement during the original construction of the retail location, we were aware that mine shafts were present on the site. As a result, borings were ultimately advanced to bedrock to allow for design of deep foundations if necessary.

Our Tulsa office mobilized a drill rig to the site and drilling was completed in a month. The laboratory testing was performed in our Lenexa, Kan., office. Simultaneously, the construction company had already begun demolition at the site. As a part of their demolition, they also crushed the on-site masonry and concrete into a base rock to be used in the reconstruction of the store. Based on past experience, we suggested that the masonry walls be tested prior to crushing operations to verify no asbestos contaminated vermiculite insulation was placed in the cells of the existing masonry. The design team agreed this was prudent and asked Terracon to perform these services.

During the clean-up efforts, it was discovered that portions of the site were impacted by petroleum products that were distributed by the tornado. Since Terracon was already providing other services on the site, we were asked to provide full-time observation of the demolition to assist with identifying potential environmental hazards and ensure hazardous materials identified were addressed appropriately.

Once construction commenced, it was requested that Terracon engineers remain on-site full time to provide “real-time” engineering recommendations as difficulties were encountered. This proved valuable the first couple of days of construction as several unanticipated challenges were discovered and addressed.

Because the City of Joplin had been overwhelmed with rebuilding, the building department authorized Terracon to provide permit inspections for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing on behalf of the City.

During this project, the value of our services was recognized on multiple levels. Due to the accelerated nature of the project, several construction elements were performed simultaneously, and staffing the project was challenging with the aggressive schedule. Terracon was able to meet and solve many challenges during the project. In total, Terracon supported this project with more than 20 personnel representing 16 different offices.

This project is expected to be completed and the retail space open for business on Nov. 16, just under six months after being destroyed.