More than 11 tons of construction and demolition debris and enough vegetative debris to fill 12 football fields have already been collected in the City of Jacksonville alone in the month since Hurricane Florence.
Aand much more remains to be picked up across Onslow County.
According to Onslow County Communications Director Cornelius Jordan, approximately 70,859 cubic yards of vegetative debris has been collected throughout the county and crews have also removed a total 2,176 hazards such as tree stumps and trees leaning or hanging.
But an estimated 129,141 cubic yards of debris remains in the unincorporated areas as off Oct. 9, and Hurricane Michael is only adding to the problem.
The hurricane made landfall around the Florida panhandle and is expected to track northeast and make its way to the Carolinas as a tropical storm with strong winds and more rain forecasted for Thursday.
While the wind speed forecast had decreased slightly Wednesday, the National Weather Service said the Onslow County area can expect sustained winds of about 25-to-30 mph and gusts up around 50 mph. Wind speeds are expected to be highest closer to coast and the sounds.
The NWS said tropical force winds can bring down already weakened trees from Florence and blow around unsecured items such as tarps on rooftops and loose debris still piled along roadsides.
Jacksonville Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett said it is not possible to complete the pickup of all debris from Hurricane Florence before the arrival of the tropical storm but the city is working hard to do as much as possible and will be right back out after the storm passes.
“We are working as hard as we can and trucks will be out (Wednesday) and Thursday,” Hargett said.
According to the city, the amount of vegetative debris collected has equaled more than 12 football fields with debris stacked 10 feet high. More than 11 tons of construction and demolition debris has also been collected as of Tuesday.
As soon as the latest storm passes, city residents are encouraged to get any debris they have remaining from Hurricane Florence to the curb by Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Hargett said the FEMA-authorized debris removal company working for the city will be assigning some of the vehicles that have been at work in Jacksonville to help communities that are affected by Hurricane Michael.
The city is expected to retain a smaller contingent of trucks to handle the remaining debris.
To date, the cost of storm debris collection for the City of Jacksonville is $3.9 million and is expected to be reimbursed by FEMA. However, city officials note, there will be a point where the cost of the FEMA-authorized contractor will not be reimbursable so residents are urged to get debris to curb for collection before then.
After the city’s contractor has left, debris cleanup will be the responsibility of city crews and normal rules are likely to come into play, including any charges that may apply.
Local governments are asking residents to help keep stormwater drains clear so they do not become clogged, reducing localized flooding during the storm.
Swansboro Manager Scott Chase said a first sweep through town concentrated on vegetative debris due to the fire hazard and another sweep has begun to collect construction material. However, Chase said, the contractor may have to suspend operations Thursday due to high winds.
“We’re asking residents to bag what they can or secure debris as best they can with ropes and tarps,” Chase said.