Where’s my mailbox, fire hydrant, cable box ... ?
These are common questions asked by some Hilton Head Island residents as debris piles remain in front of their homes nearly three months after Hurricane Matthew.
Richard Kerr, a resident of Hilton Head Plantation, looked over the debris filling his yard Thursday. His 16-year-old son, Jackson, sunk a shovel into the ground, working on some landscaping at the edge of the pile.
“It stinks to look at it, and I would like to get my yard back in order, but you just have to be patient,” Richard Kerr said.
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As of Thursday, half of the debris had been removed from areas approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Jennifer Lyle, Hilton Head’s assistant town engineer.
FEMA has approved reimbursement for debris pickup costs in all of the large plantations, though the town is still waiting for approval of roads in some smaller private communities.
Charles Cousins, the town’s deputy director of community development, said despite weeks of work, Hilton Head Plantation and Sea Pines are where a majority of the debris remains, adding it could be until April before all of the debris is removed from the island.
“You are constantly telling people to be patient,” Peter Kristian, Hilton Head Plantation’s general manager, said Thursday. “It sounds like a broken record, but that is what it is. Everyone can’t be first. Everyone thinks their street is the worst, and sometimes they are right, but most of the time it is no worse than a neighboring street.”
Kerr said he understands this.
“If these guys are working hard and they aren’t getting to us, I’m sure they have a good reason,” he said.
Kristian said the frustration for some property owners can be more than just having to look at debris. Fire hydrants, mailboxes, cable boxes and other items buried by debris or knocked over as debris is cleared often have to be replaced, he said.
Fear of possible fires also keep plantation staff busy, Kristian said.
Residents have been given fire safety tips, he said, noting that debris piles are essentially huge mounds of fire kindling. Recent rains appeared to have washed away any immediate concerns, but new risks could develop later on, he said.
Staff also is on the lookout for oversized debris piles, he said.
“If a pile gets to 12 to 15 feet tall, there is a danger of it rolling into the roadway and damaging something,” he said.
With the holiday season underway, another concern is parking, Kristian said.
Typically, guests are supposed to park in the grass instead of on narrow streets within the plantation, but many of the yards this year are covered in debris, he said. Residents are being asked to make sure that there is enough room for emergency vehicles to pass.
“The last thing you want to do is have the response delayed for someone who needs medical assistance or is having a house fire,” Kristian said.
Residents and guests in Hilton Head Plantation generally should be cautious when driving around the community, he said.
“A lot of people coming out of a driveway or out of a side road don’t have a good line of sight,” he said.
It’s something Kerr said he has noticed as well.
“Driving around, it gets a little dangerous,” he said. “Sometimes you get two big piles that creep up on you, and people are driving too fast.”
Overall, though, Kerr said he can’t complain too much.
“It is just going to take some time to get this stuff back to normal,” he said.