Tropical Storm Irma’s rampage through Middle Georgia left hundreds of trees toppled and county departments tasked with picking up tons of tree trunks, limbs and branches.
For some counties, there is a simple solution for where to take trees after the arduous chore of removing them from roadways and curbs finishes in the coming weeks. But in Macon-Bibb County, it could be later this week before officials learn where they can deposit the large volume of tree debris.
By early Wednesday evening, Macon-Bibb crews had removed trees and debris from 99 roads. But there are at least 59 more streets that need clearing after Georgia Power deals with fallen power lines, county spokesman Chris Floore said.
Macon-Bibb is asking for residents not to try to remove any trees from roads themselves because of the potential of downed power lines.
The county has spent the last couple of days scouting sites for where to hold the downed trees. The locations would need approval by the state’s Environmental Protection Division since they would be classified as landfills, Floore said.
The county is looking into whether it would be OK for residents to come to the sites to pick up the tree remnants to use as firewood or mulch.
“That was a priority (Tuesday afternoon) and today with us having debris removal meetings to see where we can put it,” Floore said Wednesday afternoon. “We hope to have all of that decided in the next couple of days.”
In Warner Robins and unincorporated Houston County, crews are following normal procedures for where they take timber: either a landfill or similar site used to store yard waste, said Jimmy Williams, director of the Houston County Emergency Management Agency.
At the Houston County landfill, the wood will be chipped and reused at the landfill. But for the next month or so the trees will remain in piles until the county is able to grind them up, said Terry Dietsch, superintendent at the Houston County Solid Waste Department.
In Houston County, there were about 180 calls of downed trees by Wednesday. The county has since worked to remove any trees or other debris blocking streets.
“We’re still trying to verify that the trees are on right of ways,” Williams said. “If a resident pays for a contractor to remove the tree, the contractor is responsible for removing that debris.”
By Wednesday morning, Houston County’s landfill had received just a few truckloads of trees, but much more will be arriving in the coming days.
“From what I understand, the road department said it would be over 21 days to get it up just because there is a process to it,” Dietsch said. “During an emergency, they just cut out (to clear) the roads. Now they have to go clear the right of ways.”
In Monroe County, there were reports of hundreds of downed trees since Monday. The trees that are being picked up by the county are taken to a landfill, but there have been instances in which people asked for some of the pieces to use for firewood or other purposes.
“While we’re cleaning up, if they see us out there working, they’re more than welcome to ask,” said Tammy Wilcox, administrative assistant for the Monroe County road department.
The cleanup efforts in those counties have been aided by residents calling to report damage and streets that were blocked by fallen trees, county officials said.
In Macon-Bibb County, the Georgia State Defense Force continued staffing phones Wednesday for damage reports. Since Monday the center has received about 1,000 calls.
Typically people can report information about county issues at the See, Click Fix website, but for Irma Macon-Bibb referred people to call the Emergency Management Agency at 478-832-6300, where more resources were available.
The priority remains clearing roads before the focus turns to picking up yard waste and trees placed on curbs.
“We tell people don’t assume it’s been reported,” Floore said. “I’d rather an issue get reported three times than not at all.”
And pieces of Middle Georgia history have been lost with some of the uprooted trees that were more than a century old.
One well-known tree outside the Macon-Bibb County Government Center toppled over during the storm. The tree that for years was the official Christmas tree for the city had previously survived a major ice storm and other inclement weather over decades.
And in older neighborhoods such as Shirley Hills and Stanislaus, oaks and other trees dating back decades were also uprooted by Irma as wind gusts reached upwards of 60 mph.