Hurricane

Hurricane Irma debris is almost gone 2 1/2 months later

Scenes like this one are getting scarce as Hurricane Irma debris has largely been cleared with only about 10 percent left to be picked up in Manatee County while Bradenton and Palmetto report cleanup is completed.
Scenes like this one are getting scarce as Hurricane Irma debris has largely been cleared with only about 10 percent left to be picked up in Manatee County while Bradenton and Palmetto report cleanup is completed. Bradenton Herald

Nearly 2 1/2 months after Hurricane Irma blew into Manatee County, the storm debris left behind is almost gone.

Bradenton and Palmetto are reporting cleanup is done, while Manatee County reports 90 percent of the debris has been removed. It’s been a time-consuming and costly venture.

Palmetto completed vegetative debris pickup on Oct. 30, said city clerk Jim Freeman, adding, “The last of the chips were being hauled off site this week.”

The city reported 18,000 cubic yards were removed and the costs totaled $180,000 for Palmetto alone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will eventually reimburse 75 percent of the costs with the state of Florida reimbursing another 12.5 percent.

“We are still waiting on our invoice from the debris monitor, which will add to that total,” Freeman said. “The monitor basically audits the material that is picked up to make sure it’s accurate. (Public works) had a few costs related to construction material that was hauled away, but it should be a relatively small cost. Those are the only two costs that remain outstanding.”

The city of Bradenton reported completion late Tuesday afternoon. Public Works Director Jim McClellan said invoices from the county have not yet been totaled, but estimates 90,000 cubic yards were picked up in Bradenton alone. McClellan said he couldn’t yet put a price tag on the costs until the city receives all of the invoices.

“But I can tell you that that volume is twice what our annual volume would be,” McClellan said. “It’s been a while since Mother Nature has been through to trim the trees for us, which is why I think we had so much.”

Amy Pilson, public affairs liaison for Manatee County utilities, said the county is about 90 percent done. The good news is that early estimates of between 1.2 million and 1.4 million cubic yards have been reduced to about 500,000 cubic yards of debris. Cost estimates still top out around $30 million that the county will have to pay upfront and wait for the reimbursements.

“The cities are considerably smaller and had much less than the county,” Pilson said. “But we still anticipate being done by the end of the year, if not earlier.”

The cities and the county have already ended the opportunity to place storm debris for pickup, and all vegetation must now be properly bundled or bagged in order to be retrieved by city and county workers.

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