In 90 days, Panama City, Fla., has picked up 20 years’ worth of debris from the roadside, with plenty more to go.
“Until you start picking it up, you don’t realize how bad we got hammered,” quipped Mayor Greg Brudnicki.
Since Hurricane Michael swept through the region with a grudge against trees, city contractors have picked up 2.5 million cubic yards of debris, Panama City solid waste manager Shane Daugherty said, with an estimated 1.5 million cubic yards to go.
This is in addition to the cleanup happening elsewhere in the county. Bay County has picked up about 5 million cubic yards of debris, and when all is said and done officials are expecting to have about 9 million cubic yards of debris cleared, according to Brudnicki. It’s enough to fill the 102-story Empire State Building. Four times.
“To put that in perspective, in Hurricane Irma there was only 2.5 million cubic yards of debris in 50 counties,” Brudnicki said. “By the time we get through, we will have 7 or 8 times as much.”
Daugherty said while there is still plenty of vegetative debris out there, the majority has been collected and the second pass likely will include more construction debris. The second pass is also when large stumps will be picked up, which often require special equipment to move.
The city also is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get a program approved that would allow city contractors to help clear fallen trees from private residences where the owner doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage or the means to handle their debris.
The hope is for the program to be operational by the end of the month, City Manager Mark McQueen said.
“I think it is going to be a great program,” McQueen said. “We’re working with our representatives to get this program approved for the city.”
The city also is gearing up to start “Operation Clean Sweep,” which gives supplies to citizens who register to clean up areas of the city.