Approximately 131,630.90 cubic yards of storm debris has been collected since Hurricane Matthew skirted Liberty County as a category 2 storm Oct. 7.
According to Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Hodges, that total will go up. He said they estimate the total debris, countywide, to be 185,000 cubic yards but noted that folks using the holiday weekend to finish storm clean up may push that number closer to 200,000.
Hodges said the contractor, CrowderGulf, has been collecting debris every day. As of last Thursday they also had a crew to tackle those tress left leaning by the storm.
"Any tree within a public zone that is leaning more than 30 degrees… we take it down," Hodges explained noting that crew is only focusing on the tress pushed over by Matthew or those that have the root ball exposed.
CrowderGulf completed the first pass through the unincorporated areas of the county Nov. 11, Hodges said. They had previously completed their first pass through the city of Hinesville and started their second pass through the city limits Nov. 14.
Hodges said CrowderGulf was taking a few days off for Thanksgiving break. Once they return they expect all the work to be completed by mid-December.
Hodges said they’ve received a number of calls about tree stumps. He said those had to be handled separately and that as of last Thursday the first of the stump trucks hit have the road.
Getting the debris removal done in a timely manner is a benefit to the county and the local municipalities that are seeking to have most of the costs covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Hodges said FEMA put together a special program after Hurricane Sandy devastated a major portion of the Southeast Coast of the United States in 2012. He said it breaks down into an 85/80/75 coverage plan.
"Meaning in the first 30 days FEMA will cover 85 percent of the debris removal costs," he explained. "After the first 30 days FEMA will cover 80 percent and after those 30 days FEMA will cover only 75 percent....If you wait past six months then FEMA doesn’t cover the coast at all."
Hodges added the state funds kick in commensurately further reducing the amount the county and municipalities will have to pay out of pocket.
He also explained the county has also applied to several Georgia Emergency Management Agency programs that will reduce the final costs down to 5 percent.
"I am anticipating that by the first of the year we will start receiving payable bills," he said explaining that all the debris collected is being monitored and billed according to areas collected from. "So what we are hoping for is that nothing has changed in the process, nothing is any different and at the end of the day we won’t end up paying more than 5 percent of all the costs."
The debris is being hauled away to a few locations. One pile is off Airport Road. Another pile, roughly measuring 70,000cubic yards, which was enough to cover roughly four acres of land, is located deep in the woods of Midway.
Hodges added FEMA representative have been assisting the county evaluate structural damages and are looking at hazard mitigation opportunities.
"When they look at those damages…like a building that was built 50 years ago…and the window that were put in it then…they don’t want you putting those same kind (of windows) back in…it has to be to today’s standard which means an upgrade," he said. "They’ve been evaluating all that. We’ve got one culvert that needs to be replaced because it will simply not carry enough water. So we’ve got a meeting with them in the next coming days for them to evaluate that."