City and county officials estimate that the mountains of hurricane debris clogging streets and right-of-ways could take weeks to remove and have hired contractors with bigger trucks to help haul it away.

And while it’s too early to know the disposal costs, local governments are relying on money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state to help foot the bill.

Orange County has hired three contractors and two monitoring contractors to speed up the disposal efforts. Once public roadways are cleared, residential and commercial removal is scheduled for the week of Sept. 18-22.

Debris from homes in private gated communities can only be removed, if the president of the association or the association’s management firm, contacts Orange County to arrange debris pickup by calling 311.

City of Orlando contractors started removing debris this week from roadways and public right-of-ways. The city had 388 trees knocked down by the storm. Debris pickup for city residential and commercial locations is also expected to begin next week.

The contractor trucks have almost four times the pickup capacity of typical garbage trucks, which can haul 24 cubic yards of material. The debris contractor trucks can pick up 80 cubic yards per truck.

The larger capacity is needed because the city estimates that Hurricane Irma dumped 284,000 cubic yards of debris, according to a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers model used to approximate the total, according to Michelle Guido, a city spokesperson.

In comparison, Hurricane Matthew produced 105,000 cubic yards of debris and Hurricane Charley produced 900,000 cubic yards of debris.

The City of Winter Park, which is known for its large oak trees, also has hired a private contractor to help clean up the mess.

The impact of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the widespread nature of Hurricane Irma have made availability of resources challenging for the region. The Winter Park debris removal is expected to take several weeks.

Clarissa Howard, spokesperson for the City of Winter Park, said they “anticipate reimbursement by FEMA for a certain percentage of our recovery efforts –typically it is 75 percent from federal and 10 percent from state, however, that is to be determined by the agencies.”

Once all the debris is collected, the local governments then must come up with a plan of how to dispose of the waste.

“We do not have a final disposal plan at this juncture,” said Carrie Proudfit, a spokesperson for Orange County. “In the past, debris has been distributed and dispersed to other communities and is helpful to communities overseas as a means of heating and energy.”

Residents should place the debris at the curb and not on sidewalks or in streets, where it could block access for solid waste trucks and clog storm drains. Vegetative debris, such as tree limbs and yard waste, must be separated from construction materials like fencing, drywall and shingles.

Orange County along with the City of Orlando announced that residents can bring vegetative debris to 10 locations daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Residents must show proof of an Orange County address to gain access.

Debris drop-off sites are:

  • Barnett Park – 4801 West Colonial Drive
  • Conway Water Treatment Plant – 3590 Manatee Street
  • Cypress Grove Park – 290 Holden Avenue
  • Fort Christmas Park -1300 Fort Christmas Road
  • Harrell Road – 8503 Trevarthon Road
  • Meadowoods Park – 1751 Rhode Island Woods Circle
  • NW Water Treatment Plant – 701 West McCormick Road
  • Rose Place Park – 8200 Old Winter Garden Road
  • Across from Eastern Regional Park – 3800 South Econlockhatchee Trail
  • West Beach Park Addition – 9227 Winter Garden Vineland Road

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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