Debris cleanup from Hurricane Matthew is expected to take months, not weeks, Town of Hilton Head Island staff told the Town Council during its regular meeting Tuesday.
Estimates show there are between 1 million to 2 million cubic yards of debris that must be cleaned up following Hurricane Matthew, said Charles Cousins, town director of community development.
We have already hauled 225,000 cubic yards of debris. That is 18 football fields stacked at 10 feet tall.
Charles Cousins, Town of Hilton Head Island director of community development
“We have already hauled 225,000 cubic yards of debris,” Cousins said. “That is 18 football fields stacked at 10 feet tall.”
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Crews contracted by the town are able to remove about 15,700 cubic yards of debris a day, Cousins said. If those numbers hold true, there could be about 100 days of cleanup ahead.
Yet, the cleanup process is expected to slow down as the town recently entered private communities, Cousins said. He said that could lengthen the process even more.
“As we get into these narrower streets, it is possible the volume we accomplish each day will decrease,” Cousins said.
Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities and chief engineer, said about 88 haul trucks worked to clear debris Tuesday in all the private communities approved for reimbursement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week.
The crews are first sent to where debris needs have been assessed as the worst, Liggett said.
“All those discussions happen in the evening at the end of the night,” Liggett said. “I really don’t know what I am going to be doing tomorrow until I know how successful we are today.”
Tree debris remains the majority of what is removed at this time, Liggett said. However, he said that will change in the future.
Cousins said people are just starting to finish up discussions with insurance companies and contractors about damage to their properties. As those discussions wrap up, construction debris will join trees in filling the rights of way.
Steve Riley, town manager, said Tuesday the town still does not have any estimates on how much it has already spent or could spend on cleanup. After the meeting, Riley said cost estimates could be available in about a week.
Bill Harkins, Town Council member, asked numerous questions regarding cleanup costs.
“What is the burn rate we are experiencing on cash and will that create any cash flow issues and what can we do to help that?” Harkins asked. “I understand we put money out first and then FEMA comes in. What do we expect the lag time to be from cost incurred and FEMA reimbursement? As far as reserves, where are we at today and when will that be drained? Longer term, what is the plan to reimburse that?”
Harkins requested answers to his questions by the next Town Council meeting planned for Nov. 15, but he wasn’t given an answer on whether that was possible.