Attention turns to tornado debris removal

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

LAPLACE — Due to the large amount of debris produced by Feb. 23’s tornado, the St. John the Baptist Parish Public Works Department and Progressive Waste Solutions are working closely to coordinate cleanup efforts throughout the parish.

As of Sunday evening, 4,379 vegetative cubic yards and 100 cubic yards of construction debris had been collected.

There is a lot more to come.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said there are concerns garbage trucks can’t maneuver through area streets because construction vehicles and pedestrian cars are clogging roads through double parking.

“If people have not received their (replacement trash) cans or are missing cans, they need to call Progressive, and the number is 985-536-3046,” she said.

“(Progressive was) originally concerned they didn’t have our St. John cans available, and we gave them permission to use any cans they have. We’ve been in contact with them in terms of what they’re supposed to pick up versus what everyone else is picking up.”

Parish officials are asking residents to separate their trash items and keep debris away from utility lines, poles and fire hydrants.

“When the trucks go to remove the debris, we really don’t want them to get close to the utility lines or fire hydrants so we don’t have an issue of damaging those,” Robottom said.

The Public Works Department is collecting vegetative debris throughout the Parish before storm-related debris pickup.

Progressive Waste, the St. John the Baptist Parish garbage company, has called in additional trucks to help service areas and assess areas for needs.

When separating debris, remember the following:

• Pile debris as neatly as possible near the curb, but not in the street. Keep the height of the pile under three feet.

• Do not place debris near mail boxes, utility boxes, utility poles, water meters or fire hydrants. Inadvertent damage can occur if those items are covered.

• Do not place piles next to fences or cars. For safety assurance, no attempt is made to collect debris piled next to mailboxes, fences or cars. A 10-foot separation distance is recommended.

• Do not place material for pick-up under low wires or overhanging tree limbs. Debris loaders cannot maneuver the collection arm safely under low-hanging objects.

• Consider placing debris piles on an old sheet of plywood or other similar material to minimize damage by the debris loader to your yard.

“I think we’ve responded very quickly with all of our partners within the parish and across parishes,” Robottom said. “Something that we dealt with during Hurricane Isaac that we’re dealing with now is very limited space on the roadways, which is why our fire department is out there and so is our public safety department. They are trying to encourage people to park off the roadway and not double park.”

As of Sunday night, Robottom said all power that could be restored had been restored.

“There are about 100 structures that either the meter has been pulled, the structure is no longer there or the building is unsafe that will not receive power,” she said.

“Once they repair what is necessary to receive power, then they will restore it, but some of the homes were totally destroyed so they pulled the meter. Some were so heavily damaged that it wouldn’t have been safe to release power.”

Robottom said power restoration has been a joint effort between Entergy, Parish inspectors and some homeowners’ contractors in determining which homes were ready to receive power. It’s about 100 out of the 9,200 that lost power.”

“I think (Entergy) met their timeline quicker than they originally said,” Robottom said. “I understand they give you the best time that they have but I think they worked very closely with us, and very quickly. I think they had an excess of 234 crews on the ground here in St. John working quickly, but there were some areas that were more difficult than others.”

Robottom said one of the Parish’s priorities was getting power restored along commercial corridors and clearing Airline Highway for use.

“People had to go around to River Road or the Interstate, then everyone was on River Road and that slowed down the traffic until they could get things cleaned up on Airline Highway,” she said.