2014-03-12 / Front Page

OUT ON A LIMB

Three years of debris created by winter storm
By Elizabeth Billips

The pile is twice as big as the feds predicted.

And it’s growing every day.

Since the Feb. 12 ice storm, City of Waynesboro workers have carted away nearly 50,000 cubic yards of debris from roadways and right-of-ways.

That’s already enough to fill more than 10 football fields – each stacked three feet high.

“It’s equal to what we would normally pick up during a three-year period,” City Administrator Jerry Coalson said, noting the job is only a little more than halfway completed. “There’s so much debris it’s taking crews as long as two days to clear a single street.”

Mixed in with the head-high piles of sticks and limbs, workers are also dealing with felled and fallen trees that measure up to three and four feet in diameter.

Of Waynesboro’s 65 streets, approximately 25 were determined to have severe storm damage, most notably in the Burkehaven, Blakeney and Jones Lake areas.

A number of residential streets still haven’t been touched by city crews. And those that have been cleared are quickly refilling as residents begin work on their backyards.

“We’ve been down high traffic roads twice already and we’re still picking up debris from those houses,” Coalson said, explaining that for traffic safety purposes Waynesboro’s busiest streets are the first focus.

The city’s clean-up caravan consists of two knuckleboom trucks, a roll-off truck, dumptruck and skid steer. Several of the 8-man crew work ahead of the big machinery to pull, cut and stack for easier pick-up.

For the first few weeks, the entire crew was logging 60 hours a week but they’ve recently backed down to 50.

All that overtime would have undoubtedly broken the city budget, but officials learned last week that President Obama declared Burke among the 39 Georgia counties considered a disaster area.

That means federal funds will reimburse approximately 85 percent of clean-up costs.

While the news was big, Coalson said it still doesn’t solve all the city’s storm-sourced problems.

“While we’ve been doing all this clearing, we’ve neglected other things,” he said. “We have not been able to do all the things we would normally do this time of year … cutting grass, cleaning cemeteries, edging, preparing for the Masters. Waynesboro is not going to look the same this spring.”

TWO MORE WEEKS

Waynesboro work crews will be picking up storm debris for two more weeks and carrying it to a site near the landfill. After that, the stockpile will close and the city will only pick up debris from routine yard maintenance … which means no more whole trees and large branches.

PRIVATE CONTRACTOR = NO PICK-UP

State emergency officials rode around Waynesboro and noted where private contractors are taking down large trees and limbs. The city has been warned that picking up debris from those houses could jeopardize the reimbursement process. As always, contractors are required to take trees and limbs to the landfill themselves.

BY THE NUMBERS

WAYNESBORO STORM DAMAGE DEBRIS
530 loads collected as of Monday
20,000 cubic yards – estimate from FEMA
44,000 cubic yards – estimate from
Georgia Forestry Commission
49,000 cubic yards already collected
98,000 cubic yards expected by March 26

FEDERAL DISASTER FUNDS

In addition to reimbursing 85 percent of clean-up costs, federal funds will help pay for a private contractor to remove and prune damaged trees that are on or overhanging city right-of-ways. “We have hangers and leaners all over the place,” Coalson said, describing the thousands of partially detached limbs that could blow down anytime.

BEYOND WAYNESBORO

The Burke County Commission has applied for a variance to burn all the storm debris which is piling up near the county landfill. “We’ve barely even started,” administrator Merv Waldrop said, noting that clearing right-of-ways on major roadways has been the first priority. “If we were to hire someone to do this it would cost millions of dollars.” While crews are picking up in subdivisions like Timberwood and Deerwood, they are dragging debris into the woods in non-residential areas. “This is an incredibly large job,” Waldrop said. “It’s so massive there’s no telling how long it will take us to get every right-of-way cleared enough to mow and maintain.”

In addition to Waynesboro’s estimated 98,000 cubic square feet of debris, county officials have applied to burn 26,000 cubic yards of limbs and trees from county roadways and another 20,000 from Midville.

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