Raleigh hires cleanup crew for storm-damaged cemeteries

The City Council has hired a company to clean up storm debris at three city-maintained cemeteries damaged by the April 16 tornadoes.

The city will pay $190,000 for Arbormax to remove downed trees and limbs. The work should be completed by mid-December, said Councilman Eugene Weeks, who represents areas affected by the storm.

"A lot of people thought it should have been done earlier," Weeks said, adding that federal officials first had to approve the plan.

The money will come from the city's Disaster Recovery Fund. Raleigh officials plan to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The storm toppled several trees and disturbed graves and headstones at Mount Hope Cemetery on Fayetteville Street.

Wrought-iron fencing and some cobblestones were damaged at City Cemetery on South East Street.

At O'Rorke-Catholic Cemetery on Pender Street, the wind knocked down one large tree and caused damage to several others.

Mount Hope is the only cemetery that continues to host burials, which are in a new section of the 35-acre grounds. Other than that, all three cemeteries have been closed to the public since the storm. Those who want to tend loved ones' graves must contact the cemetery and request an escort.

Parks officials have urged patience as they fielded numerous calls from people wondering when the cemeteries would reopen. They noted that cleanup in the cemeteries after Hurricane Fran took nine months, and the damage then was not nearly as severe.