Hurricane

Hurricane Irma left tons of tree debris. Relax, it’s getting picked up.

FEMA stages site in Hialeah for crews working on clearing storm debris

Across South Florida, mounds of mangled trees, smashed patio furniture and other debris have lined the sides of streets since Irma blew through the state earlier this month.
Up Next
Across South Florida, mounds of mangled trees, smashed patio furniture and other debris have lined the sides of streets since Irma blew through the state earlier this month.

Nestled behind the Hialeah police department lay a mountain of palm fronds and branches, brown and crippled in the weeks since Hurricane Irma. Every hour, teams of contractors bring in more off the streets, adding to the 15-foot-tall piles.

Hialeah is not alone.

Across South Florida, mounds of mangled trees, trunks, stumps and limbs, along with smashed patio furniture and other debris, have lined the sides of streets since Irma blew through the state earlier this month.

And while many say the mounting debris has become an eyesore, cities and companies working hard to make the piles disappear have a message — relax.

“Everybody wants everything done yesterday, but that is not reasonable,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said, standing near the pile of debris. “The storm was two weeks ago.”

miami2 cleanup lnew cmg
Crews drop off debris from Hurricane Irma at a FEMA staging site in Hialeah in the 5600 block of East Eighth Avenue, behind the police station, on Thursday, September 28, 2017. C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com



In the coming weeks and months, Hialeah expects to pick up the equivalent of three years of trash. More than 50 trucks, staffed with crews of eight or so, are slowly working their way through the city, house by house, for 12 hours every day.

The scene is playing out throughout Miami-Dade and Broward — where almost every city suffered a severe blow from Irma to its landscaping. Ron Bergeron, president of an emergency management company that cities hire for debris removal, said early estimates show Irma left a wake of 100 million cubic yards of debris across the state. That’s enough to fill 700 football stadiums, based on past Federal Emergency Management Agency comparisons.

Miami-Dade County, which is handling debris pickup for 11 municipalities and the unincorporated areas, estimates 3 million cubic yards of debris. Fort Lauderdale, alone, is estimating 1 million cubic yards. Coral Gables, known for its tree canopy, has nearly 200,000 cubic yards of downed foliage.

CDD29 CleanUp News rk
A worker picks up debris on Country Club Prado Boulevard in Coral Gables on Wednesday, September 27, 2017. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com



And it’s not as simple as sending a truck to pick up the mess, Bergeron said. FEMA has a series of rules that municipalities must follow in order to be reimbursed for the cost of cleanup.

These rules cover everything from who can pick up debris, where debris can be sent and measuring how much is picked up. The debris also has to be tagged, measured and mulched.

If cities and counties stray from these rules, they won’t get reimbursed, meaning the municipality will front the bill, said Bruce Loucks, Cooper City’s city manager. In Miramar, that’s expected to be anywhere from $9 to $10 million. In Hialeah, it could be as high as $12 million.

Irma’s timing and path only complicates the matter further, Loucks said. The massive storm, wider than the state, hit South Florida just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. And the storm barreled through the length of the state, from Key West north, through Georgia and Alabama, causing debris across much of the Southeast. That scattered contractors.

Nearly 50 of Florida’s 67 counties had debris flung by Irma, “something the state has never seen before,” Bergeron said.

“There’s never been a storm in the history of Florida like this,” he added.

Other challenges in the cleanup: People mixing general trash with vegetation; cities competing for the same trucks and workers, leading to a bidding war; and an already overloaded work force of emergency contractors.

Bergeron said there are about 3,000 trucks in the state capable of removing the debris. But with a storm this big, you’d probably need 8,000 trucks to do the job, he estimated.

A typical storm normally affects six to 10 counties and would take about three months to clean up, Bergeron and others said.

Irma’s statewide destruction means the cleanup will take much longer.

“We’re looking at about six months,” he said.

Bergeron asks people to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

“People need to be patient and pray for people who lost their home and are sitting in their yard with no food and no water,” he said. “It’s inconvenient to have sticks on your curb but we need to thank God that we did not have a direct hit.”







Miami-Dade County

Covers all the unincorporated areas of the county and 11 municipalities: Aventura, Cutler Bay, Doral, Miami Gardens, Miami Lakes, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, Opa-Locka, Sunny Isles Beach, South Miami and North Bay Village. Some provided their own estimates, which are listed below.Others did not.

The county had an estimated 3 million cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 165,800 cubic yards had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Dec. 31, and those with questions can call 311.

Aventura

Had an estimated 25,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 20,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 6, and those with questions can call 305-466-8900.

Bal Harbour

Had an estimated 3,600 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 3,340 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 10, and those with questions can call 305-993-7436.

Coral Gables

Had an estimated 170,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 60,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 31, and those with questions can call 305-446-6800.

Doral

Had an estimated 25,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 21,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 19, and those with questions can call 305-593-6700.

Golden Beach

Had an estimated 6,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. All debris had been picked up as of Sept. 27. Anyone with questions can call 305-932-0477.

Hialeah

Had an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 33,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through at least Oct. 31, and those with questions can call 305-883-5800.

Homestead

Had an estimated 100,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 38,500 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 19, and those with questions can call 305-224-4770.

Indian Creek

Had an estimated 250 tons of debris after Irma. About 187.5 tons had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 31, and those with questions can call 305-865-4121.

Miami

Had an estimated 700,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 100,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 30.

Miami Beach

Had an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 70,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 30, and those with questions can call 305-604-2444.

Miami Springs

Had an estimated 125,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 26,500 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 9, and those with questions can call 305-805-5010.

North Miami

Had an estimated 120,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 45,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 12, and those with questions can call 305-893-6511.

North Miami Beach

Had an estimated 150,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 20,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue until completion, and those with questions can call 305-948-2900.

Surfside

Had an estimated 15,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 12,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 14, and those with questions can call 305-861-4863.

West Miami

Had an estimated 12,000 to 17,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. Almost all of it had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 18, and those with questions can call 305-266-1122.

Miami-Dade municipalities that didn’t respond

Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Florida City, Hialeah Gardens, Key Biscayne, Miami Shores, Sweetwater and Virginia Gardens.

Broward County

Services all the unincorporated areas. The county did not have an estimate for how much debris had accumulated after Irma. About 30 to 40 percent of the county had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 31, and those with questions can call 954-765-6999.

Cooper City

Had an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 60,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Dec. 31, and those with questions can call 954-434-4300.

Dania Beach

Had an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 20,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Jan. 31, 2018, and those with questions can call 954-924-6800.

Davie

Had more than an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 12,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 31, and those with questions can call 954-797-1000.

Fort Lauderdale

Had an estimated 1 million cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 100,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Dec. 31, and those with questions can call 954-828-5000.

Hallandale Beach

Did nothave a total estimate of debris after Irma. About 25,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Oct. 19, and those with questions can call 954-458-3251.

Hollywood

Had an estimated 350,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 35,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 30, and those with questions can call 954-967-4526.

Miramar

Had an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 20,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Dec. 31, and those with questions can call 954-548-0134.

Pembroke Pines

Had an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 55,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 23, and those with questions can call 954-450-1060.

Plantation

Had an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. It isn’t clear how much had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 30, and those with questions can call 954-797-2250.

Weston

Did not have a total estimate of debris after Irma. About 22,400 cubic yards had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup will continue until completion, and those with questions can call 954-385-2000.

Wilton Manors

Had an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 cubic yards of debris after Irma. About 11,000 had been picked up by the week of Sept. 25-29. Pickup is expected to continue through Nov. 30, and those with questions can call 954-390-2100.

Municipalities that did not respond in south and central Broward

Pembroke Park, Southwest Ranches and West Park.

Some facts about debris pickup:

Separate your debris. Never lump vegetation with other debris including fences, appliances, boxes and patio furniture. Crews will skip over you.

Know your city’s schedule. Each municipality is generally responsible for figuring out a collection plan. Private property, including gated communities, are responsible for their own pickup.

Be patient. Cities are making the rounds and will do so until all debris is picked up.

Do it yourself. Bulk trash such as broken patio furniture, downed fences and appliances can be brought to Miami-Dade and Broward drop-off centers.

Be mindful. Keep trash piles on swales contained so they don’t block streets or sidewalks.

  Comments