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Posted 1/22/2018

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By Andrew Kornacki


Out of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina many stories have been told of adversity and strength, but Jasmine Smith’s story has been 12-years in the making. 

“My family and I evacuated to Atlanta ahead of the storm,” said Smith.  “When we were finally able to return to our house you could see the water line where the water was.  The water had destroyed everything, we had to start over from scratch.”

Twelve years ago, at the time Katrina hit, Smith was a college student.  Fast forward and now she is a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District.  As a project manager she works to resolve some of the Corps of Engineers’ most challenging engineering and environmental challenges.

When Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, in late 2017, there was no question in Smith’s mind that helping was the right thing to do and she was ready for the challenge.

“The memory of what life is like after a hurricane is one I will never forget.  When I was presented the opportunity to assist with recovery efforts in Puerto Rico I knew I was the right person for the job, because I could relate to the challenges and what people were dealing with,” said Smith. 

Smith currently serves as the Corps of Engineers’ Debris mission manager, and is currently serving on her second deployment to the island in this capacity.

“A few days after Maria hit I was on the island.  I spent the first 60-day deployment working the Debris mission.  After going back to my district for a few months, I made the decision to return and continue working on what I started,” said Smith.  “The work is fast paced and extremely rewarding because you get to see the fruits of your labor.”

The Puerto Rican people are also starting to see the fruits of that labor.  To date a total of approximately 2.4 million cubic yards of an estimated 3.9 million cubic yards of municipal debris has been collected by the Corps of Engineers.   In addition to the municipal debris, the team has also been disposing of salvaged vessels removed from the water around the island, removing debris from Department of Education facilities, and soon from Port Authority Facilities.  

The Corps of Engineers’ is making progress, as the activity is replicated on dozens of sites throughout the island in a bustling effort to remove an incredible amount of debris from around the island.

“I am proud to say that I have served,” said Smith.  “We are more than half-way through our mission and the Corps of Engineers will remain here until our mission is complete.”

Corps of Engineers Hurricane Maria puerto rico recovery USACE